Deck the halls…

Will traditional Christmas reign or will the festive season see Christmas theming with a twist?

According to research conducted late last year, almost four in 10 businesses planned to scrap the office Christmas party. Plain lack of cash was one reason cited for the Christmas party cull. Employment Law Advisory Services suggested that the North West would be hardest hit with 47 per cent of employees not experiencing any kind of festive cheer. But just under 75 per cent of South East businesses were the most generous. This year, and the Chartered Management Institute’s (CMI) Future Forecast: Expectations for 2011 report states that 57 per cent of organisations plan to hold a Christmas party – a decline from 65 per cent last year.

The study found that just under half of public sector organisations are planning a party, compared to 59 per cent in the private sector and 71 per cent in the not- for-profit sector. Of those organisations holding parties 57 per cent plan to spend the same as last year, 22 per cent less and 11 per cent more.

Paul Hutchings and Patrick Woodman, authors of the findings, explained: “Although one in four managers think managing the impact of the morning after may be a concern, the majority believe that Christmas parties are an important way of recognising hard work (62 per cent) and help to improve employee engagement (52 per cent).”

John Wickens, founder and managing director of ESC Events, argues that a knee-jerk reaction to the state of the economy has led to an abundance of disgruntled staff. As a result, confidence in the Christmas party market will escalate when corporates realise that they don’t wish to loose employees, instead choosing to reward hard work and loyalty.

Wickens explains that he and his Surrey-based team will once again be working with the following venues – Battersea Power Station, HAC and Old Billingsgate – organising a mix of shared and exclusive parties. As Stand Out writes, “it’s early doors” as far as Christmas bookings are concerned with serious consideration being given to the bespoke festive shindig in July.

Andrew Birnie, events and sales director, Café de Paris, suggests that the general feeling amongst the market is one of positivity with bookings at the central London venue already up by 20 per
cent. Demand for the week commencing December 12 is also high with retail, banking and publishing companies proving the most organised of the sectors. Many enquiries are for parties of 500 upwards and more money is being put into the food and drink offer and theming rather than the entertainment.

Magna Science Adventure Centre, in Rotherham, is also experiencing the same luxury as Birnie – confirmed Christmas bookings, and that’s before any serious marketing has begun. Party nights will take place in Magna’s big hall with dodgems and dancing under the guise of an Eat, Bump and Groove party night.

3-2-1 Christmas is go…

Claire Pasquill, managing director, Mask Event Design and Production, believes that Christmas 2011 will be a haven for quirkiness and fun – a feast for the senses and an opportunity to think outside of the James Bond-themed box. “We’ve started working on some Red Riding Hood designs,” she tells Stand Out. “Wolves and trees lend themselves to Christmas and the feeling of warmth.

Black Swan has also influenced us – it’s
a ballet for Christmas yet it won’t be
dark. It made us think of swan shapes
and feathers. You have to look at what’s fashionable in film and think of something that people haven’t seen before.”

Pasquill and her team at Mask are looking at party designs, which use the 1920’s glamour and American series Boardwalk Empire as inspiration.

She continues: “I am surprised at how much the market has come back. No one is being massively lavish but people are looking for something more unusual. Positive spend is fantastic, and it seems staff parties now have money for décor. Cocktails and unlimited drinks packages, entertainment and sit-down dinners are popular – corporates want the full package and experience where guests don’t have to pay.”

Pasquill is also trying to bring in the use of 3D technology and is creating custom built 3D effect boards, made so that when a guest arrives they are given 3D glasses and then enter a 3D environment. Mask is tying in this concept with a superhero theme and it’s hoped that the gadgetry and 3D elements will appeal to male audiences.

Royal Mail’s issuing of lenticular Thunderbird stamps has also caused Mask to pitch a Christmas event that pays homage to Gerry Anderson’s creation. Tracy Island centre pieces made from sand would feature.

Trends

Christmasworld, a trade fair for festive and event decorations, takes place in Frankfurt, and is organised by Messe Frankfurt. Christmasworld Trends, which is issued each year, reveals the very latest in Christmas theming, and this year is no exception. It has identified four key looks for Christmas 2011 and events in 2012 – delightful garden, elemental force, gentle horizon and bountiful scenery. Luxury, energy, florals and breadth are the main components, and the looks have nature at their heart, say the Bora Herke Design Studio, which helped present the looks.

Party organisers should think exotic and extravagant, calm and refined, playful and light and powerful and elemental if you wish to be “on trend”. Naturalness, quality and tradition will be abundant.

If you wish to achieve bountiful scenery think Asian and African carvings and pearls and precious stones for decoration. While a delightful garden requires 1950s influences, with checks and stripes, floral motifs, millefleurs patterns and blossoms. Think tapestry, knits, lace and porcelain in pastel shades with intense red and blue. According to the show’s organisers, when it comes to Christmas decorations, the trend conscious will rely on cool blue or berry shades in 2011. However, traditionalists have not been neglected with collections in red, silver, gold, brown and white being available. The foremost source of inspiration in 2011 remains nature. However, fashions and interior design are also influential and the opulence of the recent past is much reduced – the lines are clearer and inspired by classic models.