Friday, January 16, 2009

A view on 2009 – Maintaining the “wow” and minimising the “ouch”

2009 should be a year of opportunity for event organisers. Given the weak pound and the state of the economy, it’s likely that people will spend more time in the UK over the summer season. Indeed for tourism and outdoor events, 2009 should be a good year.

Something that we have noticed in our small business is the number of people organising weddings and parties for August 2009. It’s usually a last minute month when people decide to have a party a matter of weeks in advance. This year we're operating at close to capacity for most August weekends. This is probably because people are simply not planning to go abroad and want to have an event instead.

Whilst parties are downscaling in size people still want to have fun. Although we did a New Year's event for around 600 people in a tented structure at a private house in Oxfordshire, ultimately best bang for buck is going to be the trend for 2009 and sharing the event with family and friends seems to be popular at the moment. The Oasis look can be applied to different degrees – some like a completely themed look, others prefer Oasis to make a small difference to a more traditional or conventional event with our linings and lights only…. From a small company summer drinks party for 60 guests up to a large scale private New Year’s Eve party, and weddings and significant birthday parties in between, we are able to offer something to suit every budget.

We are seeing bookings with less formal catered dining - with more casual buffet style events and chill-out furniture being the preferred option. We sit in a niche supplying particular looks for event interiors but find that our look has broad appeal (e.g. Moroccan, Indian, Bohemian, Oriental, warm winter wedding, colourful summer party, funky green rooms etc.). Providing something different is always important for clients but providing something luxurious-looking for a competitive price with great service is the priority this year.

Where tents are involved, it’s tempting for clients to save money on what are perceived to be added extras like expensive wooden flooring; actually details like this can make or break an event. There’s a skill in helping clients to spend their money wisely inside a tight budget! Generally when choosing a tent supplier a good track record and reliability are invaluable to ensure basics like waterproofness between structures, good heating and sticking to a schedule and enough experience to give the client / organiser excellent advice and recommendations based on the specific site. Oasis prides itself on tailoring quotes to suit the needs of each client, and working with tried and tested industry partners all over the UK, not just on delivering a package.

More clients are asking us to dress alternative venues – we’re doing a lot of work in village halls, warehouses, and “blank canvas” event spaces like Paintworks in Bristol which we transformed for the Hype Agency (see here for our decorations and transformation). Or the Hippodrome in Leicester Square which we worked on for Firehouse Productions in December. They can save on overall cost and can provide clients with additional facilities like built in loos and kitchens.

We’re working on a few new ideas during 2009, both operationally and for some new products. However I think most companies will be holding off new investment to see how the economy shapes up over next few months. For event organisers this will mean working with suppliers to reinvent existing stock for budget-conscious 2009 clients. We have done this with our marquee linings to create a Thai or oriental theme and a Tapas or Spanish theme. Let's just hope the weather improves.

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