Thomas Global Shuts Down, Closing its Virtual Doors

Thomas Global is closing its virtual doors in 2010 according to the latest news to come out of the supplier directory world. According to a source close to Thomas that I traded notes with this earlier this afternoon, “the site will be up until 2010 to honor advertising contracts, but most of the staff is gone.” In addition, Thomas closed IEN, a magazine it published since the Great Depression era, this spring. In the words, of my source: “another sign of the times.”

What led Thomas Global to close its doors? The above-linked article cites “the unprecedented global economic downturn and the decline in marketing investment worldwide” as reasons for the shutdown. But I suspect there is more to it than that. Ironically, a couple weeks ago, I had a series of briefings with the Thomas team. But when I challenged their PR firm on a separate call that I had heard revenue had been declining over the years, they responded, “there was no way I could know that because Thomas was a private organization” and regardless, such rumors were "not true". So much for not knowing, I suppose.

What will be left of Thomas following the move? B2B Online notes “It will continue to publish its individual country-focused Web sites and directories, including ThomasNet.com, Thomas Register of Indian Manufacturers and its Web-based offering Thomex, Guia-NEI, the leading industrial directory of Brazil, as well as additional product Web sites in France, Germany, Italy and Turkey, as well as other countries.”

My source close to Thomas suggested to me that approximately "12 people" were let go this morning, leaving only “a few in NY and in the Philadelphia-area support group”. ThomasNet still has approximately “200 employees left in NYC”. How did the situation come to this with Thomas Global? My source hinted that “over the last couple of years, they started consolidating the smaller country operations with the magazine groups where possible and tried to maintain content at the global level with the staff in New York. But in the end, the only two healthy operations were India and Brazil.”

Regarding Thomas’ future, word from my source is that the rest of the business had a “good 2008” but so far 2009 is “proving to be disastrous,” from a revenue standpoint. Stay tuned for further analysis of Thomas, MFG.com, and Alibaba in the coming weeks on Spend Matters. It turns out that some of the other supplier directory sources in the market are not having as challenging a year as Thomas. And some, in fact, are growing despite the market turbulence and the manufacturing downturn.

Jason Busch

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