AXPONA Canceled; No Refunds for Exhibitors - UPDATED

Editor's note: On May 5 around 2:40pm, JD Events sent a letter to 2020 AXPONA exhibitors and sponsors outlining a plan to apply 100% of 2020 exhibitor payments to future shows, with 50% credited to the 2021 show and 25% to each of the two subsequent shows.

See below for the original story published 30 April.—Jim Austin

At 11am EDT on April 30, JD Events, the company that produces AXPONA announced its cancellation of the 2020 AXPONA in separate letters to exhibitors and sponsors, ticket holders, and the audiophile community. The show had previously been postponed from April. The announcement ends a week of industry-wide speculation stirred by an open letter sent out April 23, so far signed by at least 85 members of the hi-fi industry, demanding cancellation of the show and a refund of exhibitor investments.

Signed by Joel E. Davis, the founder and CEO of event sponsor JD Events (JDE), and Jenabeth Ferguson, Vice President and Event Director, JDE's letters acknowledge that, "during these COVID-19 disrupted times . . . so many businesses are hurting, the future is unpredictable, opinions are mixed and emotions on all sides are strong. Ultimately we must err on the side of caution and the concern for human safety so it is with a heavy heart for us to announce that AXPONA 2020 has been cancelled."

Apart from the cancelation, the big news is that JD Events will not offer refunds to exhibitors. "Our exhibit space contract language does not obligate JDE to pay refunds if the event is cancelled due to circumstances beyond our control," the letter states. "The pandemic could not have hit JDE at a worse time. Virtually all deposit monies were spent on producing and marketing the April show, including salaries, overhead and other service providers. Due to the havoc wrecked upon AXPONA and our entire business, JDE is simply not in a position to pay out refunds."

JDE asks for "some time to fully assess the current damage to JDE and to pursue additional sources of funding to help us bridge the gap to 2021 and beyond." Over the next several weeks, the company pledges to devise a plan that will allow 2020 exhibitors to rebook their same space while rolling a portion of their 2020 deposits forward. That amount will be determined "in the weeks to come" as JDE assesses its ability to strengthen its financial decision.

"We know everyone is hurting right now," states the letter to ticket holders. "Many businesses in many industries are being hammered by the impact of this pandemic. JD Events, the producer of AXPONA, in particular is facing a financial calamity due to the disastrous impact on tradeshows. Many expenses have already been spent on the show that we will not recoup."

The letter to industry members details JDE's losses. JDE describes itself as small privately held business and says it does not carry business interruption insurance that covers communicable diseases, and that it has lost all that is has invested in all of its 2020 shows in three different industries. The letter says the company is applying for Small Business Association PPP and disaster relief loans "for a temporary lifeline as well as pursuing all other avenues of raising capital."

Davis also states that high end audio shows "are not highly profitable," and that JDE "chose to invest boldly in the outlier idea of building a world-class event comparable to Munich in North America." This included a signed long-term commitment to the Schaumburg Convention Center & Hotel.

JDE says that it has been forced to "let good people go" and slash salaries. "We are deeply invested in and committed to this industry long-term," Davis writes. "I hope you appreciate my candor even if you don't like what you hear and we hope you are willing to work with us as all industry stakeholders must do in hard times. Even though this is a time when we are required to be distant from each other I believe in the long run that this experience will bring us closer together."

JD Events offers ticket holders two options: A full refund that, if made in writing by June 1 to jenabeth@jdevents.com, will appear on credit card statements within 7-10 business days of receipt; or the gift of a free companion ticket in return for rolling over the ticket price to 2021. Information on how to register for the companion ticket will be distributed in early 2021.

COMMENTS
Anton's picture

My friends who have gone have loved this show, I hope it works out.

I'm interested to see the industry response. I don't know how big those deposits were...no idea if it is a big hit or minor expense.

Mycophile's picture

Exhibitors have already paid the full amount(s) for reserving the exhibit rooms months ago, per the AXPONA contract. So it isn't exactly a "deposit" by this time.

This also seems to imply that the exhibitors reserving the substantially more expensive, large exhibit rooms / suites are especially hurt by this decision.

bierfeldt's picture

This is really unfortunate. As an exhibitor, I would very much have liked some of my deposit back. Any time there is a crisis, cash-flow is what keeps businesses afloat. However, it is not a shock and I was prepared for a complete loss. Fortunately, my loss is relatively modest.

That being said, I am not surprised by this news. JD Events was clearly a small business, was likely facing a cash flow crisis and this sort of thing is unfortunate but not unexpected. I don't for a minute believe this is greed or anything malicious on the part of JD Events.

Hopefully, AXPONA will survive this and we will have a wonderful show next year. This crisis is going to take a vicious toll on our industry. My sincerest hope is to see you all in Schaumburg in 2021.

[The author is owner of Verdant Audio and importer for Art Audio--Room 466 at AXPONA.--Editor]

Jim Austin's picture

says that members of the industry must identify their industry affiliations. Would you do so please.

Best Wishes,

Jim Austin, Editor
Stereophile

bierfeldt's picture

Sorry for not referencing my company. I am the owner of Verdant Audio and importer for Art Audio. We were room 466 at AXPONA.

Jim Austin's picture
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invaderzim's picture

those bamboo MG 1 speakers are beautiful

Art Audio's picture

That is very kind of you to say. Much appreciated.

Joe Whip's picture

But without the refunds, I fear that Axpona is toast.

MFK's picture

From all perspectives this is a sad situation. Personally, I take Mr. Davis at his word. His company simply doesn't have the capital to purchase "goodwill" by extending refunds. The 2008-2009 crash caused a lot of disruption in the industry but the present crisis will surely be worse. Until there is a vaccine trade shows are but one business activity that simply won't exist. Best wishes to all, especially manufacturers and dealers.

audioguy217's picture

That's unfortunate news for all of the vendors and going forward I'm sure they'll make sure they are covered for refunds. The event planning company should surely have had cancellation insurance in place and or been well funded enough to be able provide refunds to the vendors.

jeffhenning's picture

if I was an exhibitor who just got hosed, what would be my impetus to ever return to this show? Probably nothing.

I understand not being able to give all of the exhibitor's money back, but this seems like a rip off chain (they stole from me, now I steal from you). Very shabby behavior.

Honestly, though, if AXPONA tanks, so what? Something will eventually take its place. It's like opining the loss of a yearly monster truck jam.

We all have bigger things to worry about.

enjoythemusic's picture

Jim,

Just called our credit card company to reverse the credit card charges for our full page ad. Since Stereophile sponsored the Thursday night exhibitor / press party, will Stereophile be seeking a refund? If not then why?

If exhibitors do not get a refund, what is Stereophile's stance?

If no refunds, will Stereophile be reporting on AXPONA 2021 should there be one?

Thanks for your time and look forward to your answers here for possible publication within EnjoyTheMusic.com

As always, in the end what really matters is that you...
Enjoy the Music,
Steven R. Rochlin
Creative Director, EnjoyTheMusic.com

Scaena's picture

Steven I might be able to plead to your sense of compassion. I am really surprised to see you going here, this low. Over something so small as just a few hundred dollars. Especially since you of all people know that advertising money is not something that goes into a profits account. And unlike your virtual magazine this was for a print ad that paid printers in advance. Even more specially that you recently did the exact same thing to me, for far more money. You sold me a video ad and then when it came time to deliver, you said you are out of that business, there was no national emergency, pandemic or financial crisis.
Should I be getting a refund from you? If not, give me a good reason.

I dont like what I see. Think about how many others might also feel that way. And we are at a time when we should be doing everything to give our fellow man a break. Dont forget the kindness others have shown to you- when you needed help, you might need it again.

enjoythemusic's picture

...to a point. Quite a few within the industry tried compassionately to get info / etc from JD Events for a while. EnjoyTheMusic's Press Center was 100% free for exhibitors, and Bes did his wonderful videos gratis. In fact after a compassionate plea from someone I highly respect within our industry, decided to not publish the less than positive emails I received from exhibitors when I asked for their input weeks ago, which they knew may be published. So have been trying to help AXPONA, yet this final blow of cancellation as spelt out within today's letter may be the straw that broke the camel's back for those within the industry. Social media sentiment posted today from various exhibitors seems to be on the less than positive side.

Please email me and I will personally refund you 200% of the video fee, as I recall the whole video thing went sideways-ish and was not a big fan of charging for it since all live at show streams were 100% free for AXPONA exhibitors. You are owed a refund and to be fair due to inflation 200% refund should more than cover currency devaluation from then to today. Let me know your PayPal. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time you ever asked for a refund.

Thanks for bringing all this to my attention.

As always, in the end what really matters is that you...

Enjoy the Music,
Steven R. Rochlin
Creative Director, EnjoyTheMusic.com

enjoythemusic's picture

Scaena,

Want to ensure you get a 200% refund per my previous post. Called you via voice from the ph# on your website twice, plus sent two e-mails, over the past few days without a reply from you as of this writing (May 4, 2020). Please reply so we can get you the refund you asked for. Thank you.

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin
Creative Director, EnjoyTheMusic.com

Littrell's picture

They did what they said they were going to do in the contract - f$ck Y$o. That's why they have a contract. Note they are giving ticket holders a refund. They want people to come to their shows and value the ticket holders more than the exhibitors. Think about that. If they were bleeding cash, how can they afford to refund the tickets? Axpona is the new CES. You all know what CES has turned into for high end audio.

latinaudio's picture

...the lost of both parts and the logical consequence. JD Events nor the exhibitors knew in advance this major and worldwide problem, something never seen before.
JD Events says they put money? Yes! The EXHIBITORS anticipated money! So a shared loss is the logical answer, with or without a contract.
Sorry JD Events, but in the same position I would never make business with you again, COVID19 is a totally different reason to anything else seen before, or not?
Ask hotels, airlines, other events organizers and so on and you will understand the mistake, because dignity and correction in life and business are paramount. At least now those involved know who they're dealing with ...

audiocaptain's picture

JD Events will not give up I am certain.
Owner B.E.C LLC/Analog Matters founder AXPONA

Littrell's picture

No it's not. Just reporting the facts. Others can decide for themselves the ethical issues. Their contact describes the ugliest terms.

bpw's picture

They might not, but it would appear many exhibitors will. Consumers might as well since it could be 2022 before the vaccine is found.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

'Operation Warp Speed' is supposed to come up with a vaccine by January 2021 :-) .......

lmanley's picture

It is uncertain at this point what "give up" might even mean.

Apparently JDE still have yet to realize the value in keeping their exhibitors happy.

There are too many other options to spend our marketing funds on.

Luke Manley, VTL

Jim Austin's picture

To everyone on this thread: If you are member of the industry, please state your affiliation in your message.

Jim Austin, Editor
Stereophile

tonykaz's picture

All of us are losing considerable money on this virus Crisis.

It doesn't help that we were regularly misinformed by our Fearless Leader promising the Virus to be nothing ( well into March ).

From here we will probably be "Clear" thinking about all our considerable range of options, we will get Accurate Readings & understandings of everything we sign. We will take calculated risks and spend time managing our vulnerabilities, won't we??

I can see no path for JDEvents to continue as an Events outfit. There won't be any Events until 2022 and then, which Consumer Audio Company will still have enough business to promote ?, the next Audio Show may simply be to demonstrate or prove survival.

I suspect that we have another 2007 Financial type of Crisis, only far worse.

I don't have any sort of voice in any of the Above Audio Company decision making but...... I'd love for Audio's One Show to be RMAF combined with the Pro-Audio SAE event.

Tony in Venice

tonykaz's picture

Vietnam War Memorial has 58,220 Names of our lads over a ( 1955-1975 ) 20 year Period.

Tony in Venice

Herb Reichert's picture

what did Munich High End do with exhibitor's money?

h

Inesa's picture

Highend Munich Show makers did fully refund all fees.......
Also Air France refunded my Axpona flight ticket
Inès from Voxativ

tonykaz's picture

Perhaps, if and when USA births it's own 3rd Republic, we too will enjoy pleasantries like this French Lady describes.

Till then, we'll eat Ice Creams like our own Nancy Antionette and suffer buffoonery displays from our Great Leaders.

Tony in Venice

Herb Reichert's picture

I hope you are safe and well

herb

audiocaptain's picture

Just wondering.

enjoythemusic's picture

Herb,

You can see how HIGH END Society handled refunds, etc at www.EnjoyTheMusic.com/HIGH_END_2020/

As always, in the end what really matters is that you...

Enjoy the Music,
Steven R. Rochlin
Creative Dirctor, EnjoyTheMusic.com

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Munich High End is a very different organization that operates in a different country with different laws regarding, amongst other things, insurance. Hence, comparing the two is not fair. Having said that, exhibitors were offered the option of either a full refund or rolling over funds for the following year with a discount of either 5 or 15%.

jamesgarvin's picture

Major league baseball teams buy insurance on their most expensive players in the event the player sustains an injury which prevents the player from playing for a period of time. Is there not insurance which JD can purchase which reimburses its costs if "the show can't go on?"

jmsent's picture

...that ship has already sailed. Taking JD at their word, the answer is no. But how many are doing that? I doubt this is the last we'll hear about this sad fiasco, and I'd be very surprised if members of the legal profession have not already been engaged. Worse, I fear Axpona as a show is pretty much dead. Hard to see how any exhibitor would ever hand over their money to them again, after all of this.

mns3dhm's picture

The phrase in the foregoing that immediately caught my attention was, 'in separate letters to exhibitors and sponsors, ticket holders, and the audiophile community'. In plain language, that means JD has two distinctly different messages written for two audiences. One, presumably written by their lawyers is for the exhibitors that basically says 'go pound sand'. The second, written for public relations and aimed at everybody else says, 'we're so sorry about this unfortunate event that was beyond our control, blah, blah, blah...'. As a casual observer I'm sympathetic to all parties, but when I get spin like this from the organizer, I lose any and all sympathy for them completely. Everybody should be getting the exact same message under these circumstances.

jamesgarvin's picture

It is likely the difference in contracts. Exhibitors sign a contract agreeing that JD is not required to reimburse them in the event the show is canceled. Ticket holders (as best I recall) do not sign any such contract. So, while JD is perhaps insulated against claims from the exhibitors, they are not against ticket holders. Hence the different messages. I do think JD's strategy here is to appease the non-industry attendees, theorizing that if attendees are placated, and still willing to show up, then exhibitors will not have an option but to show up to meet their customers and potential customers.

lmanley's picture

Good catch mns3dhm!

Another piece of spin: JD Events Calling exhibitors' payments "deposits" is also totally disingenuous - monies paid were almost certainly full payments, which were due in full almost 2 months before the show was postponed.

Luke Manley, VTL

jmeyersnv's picture

It is sadly obvious that few of those making comments have current experience running a small business. When cash is disbursed, it is gone; perhaps it can be replaced, but it cannot be recovered. To expect a small entity like JD Events to return deposits to exhibitors is ridiculous because it runs on cash flow, and, without cash coming in, there isn't any cash available to conduct even its minimal ongoing business. Frankly, I was surprised by their offer to refund ticket holders. I expect they are hoping that few will actually request their money back. Furthermore, to those chastising JD Events for not being insured for what has happened, it is extraordinarily difficult nowadays to obtain business interruption insurance because the financial risk to insurance companies from an epidemic is greater than from an earthquake. To quote my company's policy from last year (the insurer no longer offers such insurance) "We will not pay for loss caused by or resulting from any virus, bacterium or other microrganism that induces or is capable of inducing physical distress, illness or disease." Finally, it is naive to think that a successor to AXPONA will miraculously and quickly appear to fill that show's void. My humble suggestion is that those of us who want AXPONA to survive should propose ideas that will enable JD Events to stay in business until this vicious COVID-19 pandemic is defeated.

shawnwes's picture

We have refunded all those deposits for meetings that were cancelled or rolled them forward to the next fall or next year, as requested by the client, as we're not allowed to host them due to current circumstances.
How any hotel can be allowed to keep any deposit from JD for an event it can't host boggles the mind. Even if the contract states that we aren't liable for having to cancel your event due to mandated closure I'm at a total loss as to why it wouldn't have to refund the deposits, or at the very least roll them over to 2021, for prepayments it had received.

Would love to see the books on this event & how transparent they've actually been with the exhibitors. I get that they've had some expenses such as salaries, contracted advertising etc but the hotel deposits are just $ sitting on the hotel's balance sheet until the event occurs. It's not out any $ if it didn't host the event. That $ should be returned to JD or at the very least rolled over to 2021.

jamesgarvin's picture

At least not yet. Perhaps Illinois' Governor makes that decision in July, but as of now, as far as I know, there is not a shut down order in Illinois that covers August. My guess is that JD was feeling the heat from the exhibitors, and to a lesser extent the audiophile press, to make a decision now, and it responded to the heat. But their decision does not appear to be based upon a government entity telling them to do so.

enjoythemusic's picture

Called the events department of The Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center on Friday, May 1, 2020, and one person said they roll over the event funds both from the April to Aug change, and again to AXPONA's 2021 date. Another said to contact Joel Davis. E-mailed Joel Davis and I am waiting to hear back about this. If the venue did not apply/rollover the funds that would indeed be a troubling financial blow to JD Events.

As always, in the end what really matters is that you...

Enjoy the Music,

Steven R. Rochlin
Creative Director, EnjoyTheMusic.com

shawnwes's picture

That's the way it should happen in my experience & hopefully the exhibitors next year will be able to have the amount of the rolled over hotel charges credited to their individual 2021 show charges.

The 2020 sunk costs already spent by JDE will most likely have to be swallowed on a prorated basis by the exhibitors but they shouldn't have to again pay for their meeting room rental expenses. Have no idea what % the overhead costs might be but at least it won't be a total loss!
Thanks for the follow up.

tonykaz's picture

Promising is quite different than delivering on that promise. ( isn't it ? )

Of course, JDEvents can and would make a generous promise even if they know fully well that they will never be able to live up to it. Refunding one person might commit them to refunding everyone.

A promise amounts to Oil on troubled waters.

Tony in Venice

ps. if refunding was the plan, it would already be done and we wouldn't be discussing it now.

daveyf's picture

Exhibitors deposits are far more money than an individuals ticket price. Refunding ticket prices is the least that the organizer should agree to...and enact on.
Question, isn’t the pandemic an act of god...therefore possibly impacting the contract between parties?

tonykaz's picture

Is this problem caused by an "act of god" ?

Is god mad at JDEvents? or Audiophile manufacturers or probably everyone for polluting the earth?

I'll guess that he's mad about the high price of Mono Phono Cartridges.

Just a little tongue in cheek

Tony in Venice

daveyf's picture

Tony in Venice, I guess you do not understand my post...No tongue in cheek!

tonykaz's picture

American Airlines had 6.8 Billion in cash reserves for Q1.

American Airlines lost 2.2 Billion in April.

Tony in Venice

shawnwes's picture

Those won't go away & who knows what else they have to keep payments up on. Any travel & hospitality company is being decimated for at least the next 6 months, maybe longer.

Leif S's picture

So if this is true and I believe it is, JD events haven't printed any event guides which I'm sure they haven't in fear of a possible cancellation....I would love to know where all this money has gone other than their salaries. I have no problem with our payments rolling over to next year. But only a partial payment is a little frustrating and seriously makes me question my involvement with any future Axpona. If you do the math with all the rooms they rent (and we have two 30' x 60' rooms @ $12k each, and there are many of these, plus all the suites they have that are $10k each, plus all the other standard rooms, plus all the advertisements JD offers for purchase (and this is big bucks), my question is, where did all the money go? For someone who has been in the trade-show industry for many years and knows that there is big profit, I'm really struggling on whether I want to support an organization that operates this way. You have to have big insurance to put on events like this. So where did all the money go?

Leif Swanson
Von Schweikert Audio

lmanley's picture

JDE appears to be legally in contravention of their contract, which clearly provides for refund after their decision to cancel, and not rollover of a "portion" of payments made (payments that were made in January 2020, and will have been held for more than 15 months by April 2021).

We are currently at over 100 exhibitors in the group now, and we intend to continue to organize to work as a group to convince JDE that their best option is to make us whole.

Any registered Axpona exhibitor who wants to join the group should email me directly at lmanley@vtl.com so that we can keep interested exhibitors informed of how we can all work together to achieve this goal.

Luke Manley, VTL

Leif S's picture

Like we did last year, we purchased 2 big banners that went over the registrations tables that cost us $6k. They offered it to us again this year but for $10K. WOW! a $4,000 difference. This is getting out of control. When I asked Mark Freed why he feels justified for this $4k increase, his response was, we are the Munich of the U.S.
FYI......NO YOU'RE NOT! Distributors, dealers, and consumers from all over the world attend Munich.
Well then, follow by example what Munich did to refund or rollover all funds paid by exhibitors to next years show!

Leif Swanson
Von Schweikert Audio

Jim Austin's picture

My thanks to all those who contribute meaningfully to the discussion.

Jim Austin, Editor
Stereophile

Elliot Goldman's picture

The word deposits is just wrong PERIOD. All the room payments which started with deposits 1/3 of the total amount, back in Sept 2019 had to be paid in full by Jan. 2020. In our case the room cost was 15.500. My partners and Bending Wave USA had paid in full plus additional money BWUSA spent to do some promotional video for the show at an additional 950.00 also paid in full for a total of 16450.00. The show changed dates without even asking if that would be workable for us. In fact if there was the possibility to hold it , the show was a direct conflict with the Show in Hong King which 3 of my room partners were committed to and would not have been able to do both. I do not have any interest personally in hurting the show or have any vendetta to get even. I do however think that if the "money" is gone, and be assured that this money is in the 7 figures, that Axpona/JDE step up and be forthcoming on how OUR funds were spent. If we are all in this together then tell the truth and let us all find a solution that works for all not only for them.
Elliot Goldman Bending Wave USA - U.S. distributors for Gobel High End

shawnwes's picture

They sit on the advance deposit balance sheet until the event occurs then they are moved off of the advance deposit ledger and charges for the event posted against them.

Your payments though would be to JDE who would have forwarded the hotel expense portion to the hotel, with JDE keeping the balance.
By the sounds of it JDE won't have to cover those hotel expenses again as they're sitting on the hotel's AR ledger as advance deposits (just another word for pre-payment).

At the very least you shouldn't have to pay for the exhibitor room rental portion again should you choose to exhibit at Axpona 2021.

Hope it works out for you guys and you're back to normal next year.

Al Clark's picture

I am supporting Axpona on this issue. Yes, I know that we could all lose our deposits. I also think that we will never recover more than pennies on the dollar if we try to force the issue.

The Axpona show is very well run and I would like to see it continue. Killing them now for a minimal short term gain does not seem prudent to me. I would rather take the chance that they recover and continue to provide a strong venue for our industry's products. If they manage to succeed, we are only out the cost of money over the period. In my view, this risk/reward scenario favors their proposal.

Al Clark
CEO, Danville Signal
Axpona Exhibiter

bskeane@gmail.com's picture

Sounds to me like JD Events cares more about the almighty dollar than keeping good faith with the exhibitors. I work in an unrelated field, our convention for March was cancelled and 100% of booth fees and registrations were applied to the 2021 convention unless you requested a full refund.

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