Forget the office party, 'tis the season to get cash

Finally! Fewer small businesses planning holiday get-togethers for employees; more will spread holiday cheer with bonuses.

By Jessica Seid Dickler, staff writer

NEW YORK ( -- If you work for a small company, your holiday wish has come true at last.

Small-business owners are slowly turning away from the sometimes awkward, or even painful, office party in favor of cold hard cash bonuses.

Forty-seven percent of small businesses are planning a holiday party for their business, store, or office in 2006, according to Waltham, Mass.-based Constant Contact's 2006 Small Business Holiday Outlook survey.

That's down 8 percentage points compared to last year's survey.

Meanwhile, more small-businesses owners are rewarding employees with holiday bonuses.

Thirty-nine percent of those surveyed said they will give out bonuses this year, up 2 percentage points from 2005.

"This year we are seeing more small businesses prioritizing holiday bonuses over office or store festivities, which shows that financial incentives still work best for many businesses," Gail Goodman, CEO of Constant Contact said in a statement.

Rock Blanco, chief technology officer of Milford, Mass.-based Atlas Travel says that while business is good, the management team will continue to reward employees with both cash bonuses and an annual holiday party.

He insists, however, that if times got tight, Atlas Travel would quickly forgo bonuses in favor of the get-together.

"The holiday party has so much more goodwill," he said. "It really does mean a lot to all of our employees to get reconnected."

He doesn't anticipate having to choose any time soon though. In fact, most small-business owners still express confidence in the overall economy.

Of those polled, 58 percent said they rate the current economy as "excellent" or "good," up 8 percent from last year.

Thirty-four percent deemed it "fair," while 8 percent said it was "poor."

Small-business owners are also predicting a successful 2006 holiday season with 62 percent anticipating strong holiday sales and 68 percent planning promotional offers to boost business in December.

The 2006 Small Business Holiday Outlook survey was conducted from September 14 to October 11, 2006. Constant Contact, which provides e-mail marketing service for small businesses, associations, and nonprofits, recorded results from approximately 1,500 respondents.

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