Devon Camera Centre has closed its Exeter store just weeks after shutting up shop in Exmouth, seemingly bringing to an end more than 50 years in business as an independent retailer.

The Exmouth store was the first to close [photo credit: Google Street View]

The Exeter branch of Devon Camera Centre Ltd employed five staff, including one who had more than 40 years’ experience.

Fewer staff worked at the Exmouth shop, which closed just after Christmas.

Speaking exclusively to Amateur Photographer, former store manager Pieter Gatehouse blamed the company’s downfall on low profit margins and strict terms of contract laid down by camera makers.

‘The writing had been on the wall for the past three years. It’s really difficult…

‘We will just be left with Wex and Amazon,’ he claimed.

Gatehouse, who joined in April 2010 but left his full-time post as manager to work on a freelance basis last year, added: ‘We all saw what was inevitable after Jessops and Jacobs… The margins are hideously low.’

devon exeterAsked if the growth of online retailing was to blame for the business’s demise, he replied: ‘You can’t really blame the internet. The only people you can blame are the manufacturers.’

Gatehouse, who has previously worked for Jessops under its former owners, claimed that one camera maker’s contract demanded the shop buy a minimum of £10,000 worth of new cameras, for stock ‘that you are not going to shift’, and which in any case would attract a low profit margin.

This meant that, in the end, it was not worth Devon Camera Centre stocking DSLRs.

‘The only part of the business that works is second-hand.’

Gatehouse said the Devon Camera Centre website ‘was treated as a [web] presence to bring people into the shop’, rather than as a significant source of sales.

The website, which has now been taken down, stated in 2013 that the shops were a ‘prime resource for photographers of all abilities’.

It added: ‘We work hard to retain a strong, professional relationship with our suppliers, who provide us with product training and account management to allow us to offer our clients well-informed advice and aftercare.

‘We have many loyal customers who, time and time again, revisit us for our friendly, knowledgeable, reliable advice and aftercare service.’

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The Devon Camera Centre website has now been taken down 

In September 2013, it seems one satisfied customer, Lee Scragg, had travelled from as far as Staffordshire for a Nikon D7100 that the Exeter store had set aside for him.

In a long list of testimonials published on the Devon Camera Centre website before it closed, Lee said: ‘Brilliant shop, excellent advice and great prices – many thanks once again.’

The Exeter shop, based at the Guildhall Shopping Centre, closed on 9 February, said Gatehouse.

The other store was located at 16 Parade, Exmouth.

Devon Camera Centre Ltd had yet to respond to a request for comment at the time of writing.