Professional Beauty shows celebrate 25 years

As Professional Beauty gears up to celebrate its 25th anniversary at Excel, we look back at how the show – and the industry – has evolved

When the first Professional Beauty exhibition took place in a small hotel in London back in 1989, the show, and indeed the market, was a far cry from today’s diverse offering.

Beauty salons were largely the preserve of ladies who lunch and strict health farms preceded today’s spa movement. “The show was 1,000m2 net with space for 100 companies and we sold out,” recalls the event’s founder Mark Moloney, managing director of Trades Exhibitions. Compared with today’s 25,000m2, and more than 600 brands, the event was certainly fledgling but it was well received and laid the groundwork for a move the next year to Olympia.

“We had two shows at that point – an event for retail buyers, which was the main one, on the ground floor and Professional Beauty above,” says Moloney. “The professional side took off and completely outgrew the retail so we focused all our attentions on this market.”

The move from the smaller sections of Olympia (Olympia 2, then the National Hall) to the venue’s Grand Hall in the mid 1990s, was a turning point for the show and the industry, he adds. “When we moved it was seen as a grown up show. Until then the professional beauty industry had been seen as a small, niche market, for ladies of leisure, so the move helped get recognition from outside the industry that it had graduated to become a serious business.”

The show grew in size and recognition, to encompass awards, conferences and competitions. It recognised the changing market with new features such as the now famous spa convention, which launched in 2002, a nail competition and dedicated conferences on aesthetic medicine.

With the London show at full strength, Professional Beauty launched another event in Manchester in 1993, Professional Beauty North. International expansion followed with shows in Ireland, South Africa, India and a new venture set to launch next year in the Middle East.

By 2004, some 44,000 visitors flooded through the doors of Olympia. “The aisles were rammed and we had no room to expand,” says Moloney. “So we took the decision to move to Excel. Not everyone was happy at first as it had been at Olympia for so long but we had to move on.

Meanwhile a competitor show launched at Olympia in the dates Professional Beauty usually took, causing confusion in the industry, who had come to refer to Professional Beauty as “the Olympia show”.

“We aggressively promoted the difference between the shows and ramped up marketing spend, and the 2005 show at Excel matched 2004 for visitor numbers so we confounded the sceptics,” says Moloney.

In 2006 Trades Exhibitions sold the shows to Emap. “Because of the recession, and perhaps the new owners not understanding the nuances of the market, the show had halved in size by 2010,” says Moloney.

2011 was the comeback event, as Trades Exhibitions bought the brand back, regained the confidence of the big-name beauty brands and secured a 50% increase in visitors.

The event has continued on an upward trajectory and 2014 will see further expansion – particularly on the international side, with a dedicated zone for more than 50 overseas brands looking for UK distributors and accounts.

Looking to the future, Moloney says, “We want to develop the London show as the meeting place for beauty and spa in Europe. This year, as testament to the show’s growing stature, we have international pavilions. We’re investing in the spa side but also in advanced aesthetic treatments.”

With more new zones and innovations ahead, Professional Beauty is set to support growth in salons and spas as our fast-paced industry continues to evolve.

Professional Beauty show takes place this weekend from February 23 to 24. Register in advance for your free ticket to avoid the £20 charge on the door.