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What do you think of when you see the term ‘party’ listed in the retail and service sector? Is it an extravagant themed event tailored around and based on a specific occasion, or is it something a little more lowkey? Do you associate parties with children’s birthdays, or with corporate Christmas’? Do you tend to consider parties an opportunity to let your hair down, or do they offer more of a network style of socialising? Do you consider a party to be the height of entertainment and worthy of a large bill, or do you look for ways to cut down on the price of a party using various vouchers and deals?
The party industry is wide ranging and, quite literally, encompasses every type of celebration or event you could possibly think of – from the generic and ordinary down to the truly unconventional. While many retailers and brands within the party sector target and embrace as many of these party styles into their repertoire as possible, there are others which focus heavily on one specific target demographic, for example wedding party suppliers and planners, children’s party planners and destination party planners.
Parties have been going on since before records began – literally – with different countries, cultures, and time periods each harnessing their own celebratory techniques and trends in order to elevate an event from a mere gathering into a party.
Thus, one of the first things that party organisers and planners have to ascertain for themselves is what makes a party come together – whether it be the food, the drink, the entertainment, or the occasion itself. In the modern events industry, parties are separated into two groups: the private functions, and the corporate events. This initial separation of the party into one of the two groups immediately provides information around the intention of the event and the relationship between guests – namely focussing on whether they are friends and family or colleagues. And while this doesn’t necessarily effect the suppliers, the set up or even the planning and running of the party, it is this relationship breakdown and knowledge which can alter and impact the atmosphere created and the kind of vibe which should be sought by the planner.
One of the leading sectors within the party and events industry is the rental sector – companies which own party supplies and products with the intention of hiring them out for one-off events rather than selling them to customers. This is one of the main things which separates the party industry from other areas of the gifts and occasions umbrella industry – the fact that customers looking for party produce and supplies are as likely to want to hire and rent items as they are to buy them, particularly with regards to the high ticket items like furniture, marquees and catering equipment.
Some of the most popular rental operators and suppliers in the party industry include:
For those uncertain about which aspects of the party should be purchased outright and which bits can be rented, we tend to find that the logistical baseline requirements of the party are those elements which are best rented for a high quality and reliable foundation; with unique and hand selected purchases from the decorative accessory sector then allowing the user to transform the blank canvas party space into their chosen theme or celebratory spectacle.
But before you can get into the hiring and purchase of party accessories, the first and best way to break the party industry down is to look at the concept of a party in its stages:
Of course, much of this breakdown is heavily influenced by the rise in digitalisation and technological advances, with ecommerce and the internet making supplier contact and coordination much easier and allowing hosts to send their invites via the environmentally friendly method of email. For those who are looking to send physical invitations, there are a series of party suppliers which are now tailoring products to the eco-market, including invitations which have seeds embedded into the paper and can be planted once received, invitations and other pieces which are made from recyclable materials and can even be handcrafted using reused book pages, paper bags and newspaper cuttings as examples.
As with so many other areas of the gifts and occasions umbrella industry, parties are hugely influenced by trends and fashions – whether they be related to the decorative accessories, the food and catering, the theme of the party, or the dress code.
Perhaps the most important part of any party, and the decision which will influence and impact every other decision that follows it, is the theme of the event and how that theme ties in with the occasion and the dress code for guests. This is the state of play across all parties including both children’s and adult’s parties, with the one question guests ask always being around dress code and what kind of party it is that they are dressing for. For children, fancy dress is a popular choice and one which is constantly shifting in line with trends and popular characters in the media. For example, a Disney themed party can very quickly hint at the way the entire party will be set up, allowing suppliers to work together to create something fantastical with no clear focus on one specific movie (unless indicated) but instead pointing at the vision of fantasy and fiction. That’s not to say that all children’s parties are fancy dress – in fact, this largely depends on the age of the child, their preferences and the occasion for the party / the season.
On the contrary, an adult theme like ‘Great Gatsby’ or simply ‘1920’s’ is much more targeted in its vision, designing everything from the décor to the dress code, the catering and the drink style with one simple theme. And then you have the parties with no distinct theme at all – instead focussing on a colour scheme, a season or an occasion, for example Christmas.
As with the wedding industry, much of the success of a party comes from the way that various details and supplier elements are banded together in harmony, with the ideal party using different suppliers to achieve the best prices; each producing and working to a single theme which allows every element of the event to compliment all the other elements. This is often why those planning a party bring in an event or dedicated party planner – handling all the logistics to ensure that the overall finish of the party is as high end and seamless as possible.
Party bags represent a large part of the party industry, mainly targeted at children though there has been an increase in the use of adult party bags in recent years as party planners and customers alike look for ways of presenting guests with some form of take home to keep the party spirit alive after the guests get home. A great example of this is party and wedding favours, left on the placemat of each individual guest. In line with the retail-wide rise in eco-friendly and environmentally sound products and decorations, party bags are becoming more and more green and natural in their approach – using everything from recyclable bags to paper bags, paper straws, and eco-branded gifts to name but a few.
Another prominent trend in the party industry is the importance and influence of the catering selection in determining and complimenting your chosen party theme. Let’s look at a few options which are popular across children’s and adult parties respectively:
While some party hosts choose to organise and provide the catering on their own, the increase in the variety and quantity of external catering companies which are willing to provide food at affordable prices is such that every year the number of parties using outside catering is growing.
If you are looking to host or plan a party and don’t know where to start when it comes to retailers, one of the best places to begin your search is through local suppliers, local venues and event spaces, and local businesses with party supply provisions and contacts. The likelihood is that the best deals and discounts will be provided through local businesses, and so for an affordable end price tag you should look to create package deals with the nearby events community where possible.
Once you have determined your event or party space and have set the scene, it all comes down to those all-important details – and this is where you can get creative and find new and innovative ways of creating a standout party which meets and compliments various trends and serves the main demands of your event – whether your target audience are children, pre-teens, young adults or adults!
While largescale retailers and companies are often those which are the easiest to find and offers the best multi buy discounts on decorations and accessories, if you’re looking for unique and innovative event and party solutions in particular, consider the value of extending your research to include small businesses and independent crafters on marketplace sites; many of which tend to specialise in charming party favours and small detailed features which help to showcase and portray your event theme in unexpected ways. Not only does this serve the party itself well, but it also allows the customer to support the trend around small business purchases and shopping small.
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