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Muted company holiday parties, low-cost personal shindigs for 2011

December 17, 2011 | 10:00 am

Spirits high at low-cost holiday parties


Company parties are still trying to pull themselves out of the recession doldrums, but personal, private parties are having an easier time picking up.

Champagne and sparkling wine purveyor Korbel said it expects to ship more than 16 million bottles around the holidays, up 5% from 2009. Hosts are inviting more guests — 36 on average this year compared with 33 last year, according to Evite.

Sherman Oaks social media strategist Nick Walsh, 26, is nearing fete fatigue with at least five holiday parties this month.

There was the white elephant bash, where he was given a guido survival kit complete with pasta, tanning oil and Axe body spray. There’s an upcoming ugly sweater party and a party bus event. His office is hosting one shindig. One weekend, he had so many parties lined up that he began mixing up dates and locations.

With more events than ever to go to this year, Walsh has started strategically mapping them out so that he doesn’t double up on seeing the same people.

“I’m a really big Christmas guy in general, but I’ve had my fill,” he said. “I’m constantly declining Facebook invites now because I’ve had so many. Everybody has a Christmas party these days.”

But many of the festivities are decidedly low-rent. Participants in white elephant parties have been getting low-budget (or no-budget) gifts such as used ashtrays, wilted carrots and broken umbrellas, according to a survey from the Creative Group.

Sales at the online Ugly Sweater Shoppe, which sells the unattractive duds for tongue-in-cheek winter bashes, are on track to double sales from last year. Pullovers featuring Santas, snowmen or Christmas trees -– including one called the Rockafeller -– are set to be bestsellers, owners said.

UglyChristmasSweaterParty.com launched out of a loft in 2009 with $35,000 in sales before moving to a basement in 2010 and raking in $70,000. This year the company has moved into a warehouse and is expecting more than a quarter of a million dollars in revenue.

“The flashier they are, the quicker they sell off the shelves,” co-owner Adam Paulson said. “A lot of people are still on a budget, so instead of having a black-tie event, they’re using sweaters to have a good time on the cheap.”

Of course, all is not dark and dreary for corporate shindigs. Conde Nast, publisher of Vogue, the New Yorker and other tony magazines, is returning its holiday luncheon to the upscale Four Seasons hotel in New York this year after canceling it in 2008 and then briefly reviving it as a muted cocktail hour.

Party planners are setting up events at bowling alleys, at the Getty Center, on Newport Beach boats and even at the Metodo Rossano Ferretti hair salon and spa in Beverly Hills.

RELATED:

Office holiday parties are fewer and less elaborate

Companies still not in the mood for big holiday parties

-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: Production assistants Byron Escobar, left, and Eddy Robles load a sleigh onto a truck for a holiday party at Bob Gail Special Events in Los Angeles on Dec. 8. Credit: Christina House / For The Times

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