Battle tested Hyve focusing on quality and liquidity

Paul Colston looks at organiser Hyve Group’s strategy of concentrating on strong liquidity, consolidating around quality shows and being well insured 

Many of the world’s larger exhibition organisers made a point of ensuring financial liquidity to weather the pandemic, but few had insurance policies as robust as the Hyve Group’s. Hyve has collected close to £100m (US$135m)to date. Another prop in the group’s strategy has been a consolidation around quality and market leading shows, while disposing of smaller exhibitions in eastern Europe and Asia. The Group had 269 shows four years ago, compared to 63 now and CEO Mark Shashoua (pictured) tells EW average revenue per show is now £3.2m compared to around £500k then.

Hyve has continued to invest in its crown jewel events such as Mining Indaba, Bett, MosBuild, Shoptalk, Groceryshop, Spring and Autumn Fair, Glee and Retail Meetup. 

The UK-based company posted a solid financial performance for H2 in December 2021 off the back of the reopening of in-person events in all its major markets, albeit there were some steps backward as the Chinese market stalled. The reintroduction of restrictions in Shanghai resulted in two Chinese events scheduled for last August being postponed. 

The financials showed £130.1m available from cash and undrawn debt facilities as well as a 12-month covenant waiver extension up to March 2023. Hyve reported revenues for the year to 30 September 2021 of £55m and headline profit before tax of £20.8m, up from £18.1m for the previous year.

The December results included a strong increase in like-for-like customer spend and forward bookings which, the company said, demonstrated the need for market-leading events. The recovery play could take time, however, given the still shaky situation around international travel. There appears to be huge demand for face to face events after two years of Covid and those that can take full advantage will be those with the online and multi-channel options to support their brands. Hyve has accelerated its omnichannel strategy .

Shashoua told EW that the group’s focus since the outbreak of Covid-19 had been, “to emerge with a stronger customer proposition and a robust financial platform. This has prepared us well to meet significant pent-up demand and accelerate our omnichannel offering as markets reopened.” Shashoua said the company was “battle tested” and ready to face the new challenges. “It is different from 18 months ago. There is multiple scenario planning on every event we run.” He added the group was ‘cash-flow positive” and had protected its core teams.

“The successful reopening of in-person events in all our major markets has led to a strong performance across our key indicators - particularly in the second half where our shows performed well on a wide range of important metrics, including like-for-like customer spend, visitor density, net promoter scores and forward bookings.”

Shashoua added that Hyve had set three clear priorities: building customer market share on market-leading shows, trialling facilitated meetings for rollout in FY22, and accelerating omnichannel strategy through the launch of new online meet-ups. Those meet-ups are using technology acquired following the acquisition of Retail Meetup and augmented by the acquisition of 121 Group in November 2021. The group trialled facilitated meetings at Autumn Fair with a FY22 broader rollout planned, initially with Bett and Spring Fair. Back in Q4, Hyve ran 11 shows across the UK, US, Turkey, Ukraine and Russia, although international travel restrictions meant the events were on a smaller scale than before.

“We have launched a new ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) strategy,” Shashoua said, adding that the speed of recovery is likely to be influenced by the reaction to new variants by governments across key markets. Hyve would, he said, “adapt its operations accordingly, based on extensive scenario planning and thorough processes in place”