Sunday, 13 January 2013

The demise of Jessops


The mighty Jessops is no more. The UK camera retail chain that had been on the high street since 1935 finally closed its door on Friday ending quite suddenly after years of problems. At its peak the company was the main UK retailer for photographic material and equipment. During the late 1990's Jessops went through a rapid expansion taking on various independent camera shops before the photography retail business model changed and digital started to make its mark. At that point the slow decline of the Jessops brand set in, a decline that would build up gradually over a period of just under a decade.

Closure came quickly on Friday when it was announced that the remaining 187 Jessops stores would close, but the build up to that finale took the best part of four years. In 2009 it was announced that Jessops had problems with it suppliers. The company simply could not pay them. To avoid administration Jessops was allowed a debt for equity swap with HSBC who would receive a 49% share of the business. To cut costs shops closed in large numbers and staff were also reduced but the company never seemed to fully recover. Stock was often limited and the staff would advise you towards using the Jessops website. Hardly great customer service and certainly not much good if you needed the product or materials there and then.

A number of posts on my blog have mentioned experiences I've had with Jessops over the years. To be honest it was often the case that some stores were better than others, however, as the years progressed it became obvious that Jessops just mattered less and less in photography retail world. The company seemed to concentrate more on the amateur end of the market, who would later switch from the compact camera to the mobile phone camera, while blatantly ignoring the professional who might require materials regularly. Digital photography also reduced the need to visit the shop as no film materials needed to be replaced. Add to that the rise in competition from retailers on the internet, Jessops seemed to be fighting a losing battle on all fronts as it lost sizable elements of the business like secondhand sales to the likes of eBay.

So is this the writing on the wall for the independent camera stores left on the UK high street? Some may think this is so but i'm more optimistic. Most of the independent camera stores I've been to have always had a great service, a superb range of stock and a clear understanding of what the customer wants. Jessops simply lost their way due to changes in the retail business and the fast momentum of technological change. With mounting large debts, growing losses in sales and no real idea of what it represented anymore, it was just a matter of time to when the company would fold.

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