Over the last week Info Salons have advised clients they are closing their Australian operation.
Info Salons was founded by Jo-Anne Kellaway in 1990 and pioneered event registration software and data capture as business events in Australia grew following the opening of the SCEC in 1988.
Info Salons grew into Australia’s largest trade registration company and was bought in 2018 by the Freeman Group out of the USA. Kellaway stepped down as CEO 18 months ago.
Considered one of the most progressive supplier companies in the world, Freeman has been adding services to deliver a more holistic service to their clients. The registration division will be maintained in Asia and other parts of the world.
Around 11 Sydney based staff are expected to lose their jobs.
Ed: In 2015 Freeman Group purchased Staging Connections, rebranded as Encore Event Technologies and then sold the operation to PSAV in 2019.
The Info Salon news has shocked many who depend on them for services. However there has also been a growing number of organisers developing their own or taking on alternative registration systems for some time, so for some it will have little to no impact, but does raise some bigger questions.
The word is Freeman doesn’t see Australia as a big enough market and one that doesn’t look like it will grow. To companies like Freeman, Australia doesn’t have the profit projections other parts of the world like Asia can deliver.
This raises the question whether other international companies will maintain a presence within the Australian market given Freeman’s view of the market and the expected long recovery time to get back to where we were in 2019, little alone pick up three years of missed growth.
International organising companies with local management teams such as Reed, Informa and Diversified must be wondering what the future holds for them. Compared to the portfolios and events they run overseas, Australia represents very small numbers in comparison and given the distance and the market size you would have to conclude the head offices would be evaluating whether the business in Australia is really worth persevering with. And it’s not just organisers; Agility Logistics global business changed hands over the last month and given the lockdown, what staff and size of business will look like is yet to be determined.
The double whammy is the independents have had to weather the storm based on their wits, past savings and passion. And now there are questions emerging about how many organisers and suppliers will be around to service the shows in 2022 and beyond.
The impact on the Australian scene is already having some effect with a number of B2B exhibitions moving from 2022 to dates in 2023. Forward bookings are also being impacted with organisers hedging their bets by holding dates in both the first half and second half of the year. This despite the vaccine roll out and guarantees from government that on the basis of vaccine milestones being met the venues will open up. Venues allowing organisers to have two bookings are potentially limiting their success factor by excluding shows that may traditionally run in the second half of the year.
There is also talk that venues will be increasing rentals moving into 2022, this would only add another obstacle for shows returning and could really impact the bounce back. And in the case of NSW and Vic, venues have had staff covered by government financial support during lockdown while the majority of their clients and suppliers do it tough would be seen as a real slap in the face and certainly doesn’t send the message “we are all in this together” !
It is clear the market won’t be the same and it will take time to recover to pre COVID-19 days. It will be interesting to see however who survives long and short term and whether organisers, venues and suppliers will work together to rebuild and launch fresh new events and how long it takes to even resemble the pre 2019 rate of shows.
Main image – Jo-Anne Kellaway