Party on!

18 March 2008

Any doubts that the party industry might have been on the decline, since the party poopers tried to ban Christmas for being non-inclusive or the health and safety industry tied us up with their endless demands for risk assessments and health and safety statements, should be ended with the news of three recent parties.

These were, first, the reported €14 million budget for Sir Phillip Green's (owner of a big UK clothing chain, BHS) 55th birthday party in the Maldives for a few well chosen friends. They were flown out on specially chartered planes and had George Michael, Ricky Martin and others to sing for them and no doubt “happy birthday to you..”.

The second was a 60th birthday for Sir John Beckwith. Budget unknown, but since it involved flying 300 to Alpine ski resort Courchevel for a country and western themed weekend and the act for the night was Sheryl Crow, I do not suppose this came cheap.

Third, as old age is not a pre-requisite for having a big party, the millionaire former boss of Phones 4U hired the Natural History Museum in London and coaxed Tina Turner out of retirement for a children's party.

All of which is good news for the party rental industry, as they underpin the event organisers and the superstars singing who can make more in one night-over €2,5 million reputedly for George Michael-than in a month of touring.

These are the parties making the headlines and they are by no means the biggest, or even that rare. With more and more millionaires and billionaires seeming to be made every year, there are lots of similar parties that do not get the PR touch, and they seem to be on the increase.

So how are the rental companies fairing? Clearly, if the party is offshore in somewhere like the Maldives, an awful lot gets shipped in for the event as the local market supply, if it exists, is hardly likely to be big enough, up-market enough or reliable. When you have cricket tours to places like the West Indies, the British stadium seating companies and hospitality box renters ship over there as the market locally is only for that short period, once every few years. Local demand would never sustain the investment.

If you are going to somewhere like Courchevel to do an event, the chances are items will either come from rental companies in Geneva or Paris or will have been taken out on the trucks from the UK. The rental companies have a firm grasp on how this works and will step up when asked. The market, for the serious players, is International and lucrative.

At an event we did in St Moritz for some 400 stockbrokers - having been given the keys to the venue (a first for us) and asked to hand them back afterwards - we were given carte blanche by the town's representatives as serious money was being spent over a period of a week for this group.

While we used Geneva-based sound and lighting rental companies, local caterers who hired locally sourced tables and unremarkable chairs (there being not much choice apparently), we brought all the props, backdrops and special effects from the UK. International effort produced an exceptional party.

We have been involved in some spectacular events, and not all in glamorous locations in the Alps or in holiday destinations. At one recent event near Manchester in the UK, not only did some 300 or so guests get wined and dined, but flown in specially from Israel was a forty piece orchestra and famous lead singer to add to the fun.

Deep pockets certainly needed, but the results, as I am sure was the case in all the parties above, were memorable and what the clients wanted. So that's all fine by me. Party on dude!

THE AUTHOR: Steve Hayward is owner/managing director of Amazing Parties. He can be contacted on Tel: +44 (0)870 759 1901 or +44 (0)7785 725029.

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