Corporate holiday parties in U.S. at all-time low

Lack of budget, inappropriateness cited as reasons: Survey

Fewer businesses will hold holiday parties this year than at any time in nearly a quarter of a century, according to a survey by Amrop Battalia Winston in New York, a global executive search firm.

Only 74 per cent of the 120 companies polled will have parties this year, down from 79 per cent in 2010, 81 per cent in both 2009 and 2008, 85 per cent in 2007 and 95 per cent in 2006.

Holiday parties were held by 95 per cent of companies in 1988, the first year of the survey, and an all-time high of 97 per cent was recorded in 1996 and in 1997, all years when the economy was robust.

"From the beginning the study has been a reliable barometer of both prevailing economic conditions and corporate confidence," said Dale Winston, Amrop Battalia Winston's chairwoman and CEO.

"The trend is downward and we're seeing that once a company does away with them, parties rarely get back in the budget. In many cases, the holiday party is the last vestige of company sociability. Some young people entering the job market may never see a corporate holiday party.”

Of the 26 per cent of companies not holding a holiday party this year, 44 per cent said it was not in their budget, 37 per cent said it would be inappropriate in the troubled economic environment and 19 per cent felt employees were not that interested in attending corporate parties.

Slightly over one-half (53 per cent) of the companies said they are holding a party to build employee morale while 32 per cent are holding a party to celebrate 2011 as a good year and 15 per cent to show employees and clients they are optimistic about next year.

Most parties (71 per cent) will be for employees only, while 22 per cent will be held for both employees and their families and seven per cent will host employees, their families and friends of the firm, found the survey.

While 10 per cent of the parties will be more modest than last year's, 11 per cent will be more lavish and the expenditure for 79 per cent will be about the same.

Most (60 per cent) of the parties will be held in the evening and 40 per cent at lunch. Sixty per cent of the celebrations will be held in a restaurant, 23 per cent at the office, 15 per cent at a hotel and two per cent at a bar, found the firm.

Drinks will be served at most (76 per cent) of the parties, down from 79 per cent last year and a high of 90 per cent in 2000. Tighter budgets are playing a role in the decision not to serve alcohol, said Winston.

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