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June 5, 2008

Claire Lawson: Could the conference market escape recession?

April’s economic forecast made by the Confederation of British Industries indicates that the economy will grow at a level of 2%. This is a reduction of 0.2% since the September forecast.

However, perhaps the conference market has yet to be hit as hard as other areas of industry. The Evening Standard reported recently that expenses for corporate entertaining in city banks were being cut as employees are urged to stop flashing the company credit card after recession concerns have resulted in job losses. However, the Brewery is optimistic that its growth will reach its predicted 3% increase.

Changing business
This may be because we have seen a change in the way business is being conducted. All clients are reporting a change in their buying patterns, not a cessation of their expenditure.

Day delegate rates at the Brewery are from £69.00 plus VAT against the UK average of £45.62, yet we boasts a 50% rate of repeat business.

We conduct business analysis on a weekly basis. This means that general trends are easily identified and it helps to highlight that lead times are shortening. In the first two weeks of April, eight events were confirmed for May. Last year, these bookings would have been considered very last minute, but 2008 is shaping up to be a very different year.

Assured spend
We have also identified an increase in the value of each booking from contract to invoicing; the level of uplift each month has risen to 5% in 2008 compared to 2% in 2007. This demonstrates a slight hesitation of clients to commit at contract stage to guest numbers and beverage spends. However, when it comes to the actual event, the spend is assured.

Bookings show a shift in the types of industry holding events. The Brewery can report that many more bookings are coming from industries such as retail, transport, communications, new media, and there has also been a large increase in the number of events regarding sustainability and green issues.

Claire Lawson is general manager at London venue the Brewery.

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