By Marcus Leach

Despite the general economic gloom, office Christmas parties are big business in Britain. And they're getting bigger, according to market trends data from events company Office Christmas.

A whopping 70% of this year's Christmas office parties will be themed, with ideas such as 'the chocolate factory' and 'Viva Vegas' superseding traditional themes along the lines of 'winter wonderland'. In order to meet employees’ expectations of gourmet food and cutting-edge entertainment, more companies are seeking outside assistance to ensure that their parties portray their core values and reinforce their public image.

The figures, based on spending in 2010 and bookings made for 2011, also reveal distinct regional differences. While Christmas parties in London cost an average of £90-per-head for exclusive events and £65-per-head for shared parties, those outside the capital cost an average of £79-per-head and £45-per-head respectively.

However, the market outside London is seeing good growth in exclusive events, with an increased spend of £20-per-head since 2010.

Numbers are also up, with exclusive events outside of the capital containing an average of 158 people (up from 150 in 2010), while shared parties will contain an average of 30 people (up from 26 in 2010). Within London, the average group size will be 113 people, down from 118 in 2010. However, shared parties are up, from an average of 26 to 30.

"Companies are increasingly recognising the value of the Christmas party," says an Office Christmas spokesperson. "Christmas party attendance and bookings are on the rise overall this year, meaning there are even more revelers enjoying their festivities with Office Christmas."

Throwing a shared party is one way for companies with limited budgets pool resources. Another solution, says Alasdair Adam, MD at Office Christmas, is in the timing.

"Whilst companies are happy to spend money on a good Christmas party, the need to include more entertainment or stage bigger productions is met with a greater flexibility to consider off-peak dates when the most competitive rates can be secured," he said.

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