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Corporate Holiday Parties Take a Hit

If you’re hoping for a corporate party to make the holidays merrier this year, you should be prepared to put celebration on your wish list for next year, a recent survey reports. This year will bring the worst company holiday party slump in the past 22 years, with only 79 percent of businesses holding some type of holiday celebration.

This is down from 81 percent in both 2008 and 2009, when the U.S. was in the midst of a recession, according to an annual survey conducted by Amrop Battalia Winston, an executive search firm. But it’s not budget-related concerns that are holding most companies back from celebrating — it's the overall economic outlook. More than half (55 percent) of the businesses not holding holiday parties say they think holding a party in these economic times is not appropriate. Only 27 percent place the blame on their budgets for a Grinch-like lack of celebration.

For companies that will be holding parties, just over a quarter (28 percent) say their parties will be more modest. This is an improvement over last year, when nearly half (49 percent) of companies holding parties downsized their events.

“The holiday party is particularly important to small businesses and entrepreneurs because it is the only time of the year that they have an opportunity to bring their team together,” Dale Winston, CEO of Amrop Battalia Winston, told BusinessNewsDaily.

Most companies that are holding holiday celebrations will be partying at the same level as last year (61 percent), but some companies that are feeling flush will up the ante and hold more lavish parties than the previous year (11 percent).

Just don’t expect corporate parties this year to be client schmoozefests, though; only 5 percent of companies holding parties will extend an invitation to clients and friends. Most celebrations (69 percent) will be for employees only — another decision based mostly on economic outlook.

“There remains a deep divide in organizations’ economic outlook and how they perceive their 2010 performance accordingly,” said Winston. “Fundamentally, those having holiday parties this year are much more optimistic about the year ahead, while those not having parties are more pessimistic. While we have seen the lowest number of holiday parties in the survey’s history this year, we anticipate that this is merely a ‘blip on the radar’ and there will be a stronger showing this time next year as the U.S. economy gets a stronger foothold in the recovery.”

For the thirsty set whose companies are holding parties this year, there’s another encouraging note: The number of companies who plan to serve alcohol at their parties has increased this year to 79 percent, up from 73 percent in 2009 and 71 percent in 2008. Only Scrooge would note that this is still down from the all-time survey high of 90 percent in 2000.

•    Creative Holiday Bonus Ideas
•    How to Reward Your Employees in a Tough Economy
•    Holiday Bonuses Take a Back Seat to Customer Gifts

Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at nsmith@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @nedbsmith.

Ned Smith

Ned was senior writer at Sweeney Vesty, an international consulting firm, and was Vice President of communications for iQuest Analytics. Before that, he has been a web editor and managed the Internet and intranet sites for Citizens Communications. He began his journalism career as a police reporter with the Roanoke (Va.) Times, and was managing editor of American Way magazine and senior editor of Us. He was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and has a masters in journalism from the University of Arizona.