Alan Jessop, who ran camera chain Jessops until he retired in the mid-1990s, says he would not have expanded the business had he been in charge afterwards.

After private equity firm ABN Amro Capital bought Jessops in 2002, for £116m, the chain swelled to more than 250 shops. It was floated on the London Stock Exchange shortly after that.

Speaking for the first time since Jessops closed its entire store network on 11 January, Alan Jessop – the son of Frank Jessop who founded the business in 1935 – said: ‘If I’d still been running the company today, it would be a much smaller company because we wouldn’t have expanded.’

Asked what it was like to see the business in its ‘death throes’, he told Ben Jackson on BBC Radio Leicester: ‘When HSBC had a refinance a couple of years ago, that was a sad time because I thought that was the end of the company.

‘I am even sadder now that it really is the end… It’s sad for the family but it’s also devastating for the members of staff there, some of whom were there when I left – some of them have been there 16-20 years.

‘It’s not only sad for them, it’s sad for the public because that was where they got their knowledge.’

Commenting on the impact of the internet, Jessop warned that more local shops may be lost as consumers increasingly go elsewhere to buy goods.

‘We’ll all end up in supermarkets,’ he added.

‘It’s sad, but [for] the high street I think there’s a lot of change to come.’

A Brief History of Jessops

1935: Frank Jessop opens a photography shop in Leicester

1960s: Frank and his son Alan focus on selling at low prices on a ‘cash and carry’ basis

1970s: Jessops moves to a 20,000sq ft premises on Hinckley Road in Leicester, later billed as the largest photography store in the world (closed in 2008)

1980s: A second store opens on London’s Finchley Road and by the end of the decade the chain boasts more than 50 shops

1996: The company is sold to a management buyout team led by Tim Brookes following the retirement of Alan Jessop. The chain snaps up Crewe Cameras and the City Camera Exchange, adding 25 stores to its portfolio as it heads toward the new millennium

2001: The number of Jessops stores swells to 200

2002: Private equity firm ABN Amro Capital buys Jessops for £116m

2003: Jessops chain grows to 250 shops

2004: Jessops is floated on the London Stock Exchange

2005: Jessops share price plummets after a drop-off in digital camera sales

2006: Jessops confirms that it is no longer purchasing used equipment or accepting it from customers in part-exchange.

2007: Jessops share price falls more than 70% after warning of a half-loss of £8.5m. David Adams (former deputy chief executive and finance director at House of Fraser) is appointed executive chairman. In June Jessops announces 550 jobs will be axed and 81 of its 315 shops shut down in the wake of its strategic review. The board tells Amateur Photographer that the chain may have grown too quickly for its own good. Jessops chief executive Chris Langley resigns three months later. Finance director Ian Harris also leaves the firm

2008: Jessops issues another profits warning causing a 30% slide in share price. The firm slashes 200 assistant manager jobs but says it does not plan further store closures. Jessops agrees an extension of its loan with HSBC bank until 31 December 2011

2009: Fears that Jessops may have suffered from a Christmas spending slowdown are dispelled with news that the photography chain reported a 3.1% increase in like-for-like sales for the five weeks to 5 January. However, sales for the 14 weeks to 5 January were down 5.6%, the firm says in a statement issued on 9 January.

2009: Thousands of jobs were saved in a deal that meant the troubled photo retailer’s main operating company would be sold to a new firm, 47% owned by HSBC. The agreement meant HSBC would ‘forgive £34m of debt’ owed by Jessops.

2012: CEO Trevor Moore resigns to head up the music chain HMV, shortly after the departure of Jessops chairman David Adams who later said he had tried to reach an agreement with HSBC for a private equity takeover.

2013: Jessops shuts down its remaining 187 stores two days after administrators are brought in, with the loss of around 1,400 jobs. It had lost the support of key suppliers following disappointing sales figures.

2013: The Jessops brand name is bought by a group which includes renowned entrepreneur Peter Jones.

  • Alan Darby

    I was a rep for Fujimex, calling on Alan in the late 70’s. Alan was totally unique and so was his company. One of THE great entrepreneurs. Sad to see his name disappear from the once great photo industry.

  • Chris Ingram.

    As a Company Jessops got too big and it never offered the personal service that it did when under the auspices of Frank and Alan Jessop as a family firm. The arrogance of the Company believing that they were the best ultimately sealed their demise.

  • Peter Loomes

    Isn’t it a common theme. When Private Equity Firms or Venture Capitalists get their hands on a business it appears to be doomed

  • bob m

    it was reported that Jessops were paying RENT OF £170,000 FOR THEIR Manchester store. No wonder they went under.

  • Brian Gerrard

    The worst thing that Jessops ever did was to cease part exchange and buying second hand camera’s/lenses. There is still a large market for them. Unlike the Internet, with Jessops you could see, feel and know what you were buying. I bought second hand camera’s and lenses from Jessops and they were responsable for me getting into photography in the first place. It was nice to look in the window, see something that you liked, go in and try it and if was suitable for your needs then purchase it. No wonder they went down hill. People would go in and try one of their new camera’s/lenses and if they liked it would go onto the net and buy the same thing cheaper! The second hand side was the thing (like myself) that got people into photography in the first place and you would go there to upgrade. If they are to become successful again they must re-introduce part exchange and the second hand goods. I have not been to Jessops since they stopped this.

  • Peter Elgar

    I survived as a Freelancer from 1970 as I did not have any High Street ‘premises’ — I worked from home — no expensive overheads and a small tax allowance even for ‘using a room for business purposes’ ! The local High Street Photographers has gone under — his shop has been closed for several years — no takers !

  • Kiz

    This is not the only family-run business that has gone this way. A victim of its own success maybe but more a victim of greed !

  • Colin

    Jessops’ demise was due to senior management’s desire to eliminate most of the high street competition, in theory enabling Jessops to charge high prices. They forgot about online competition.

  • Ed

    I had been going in the Jessops on New Oxford Street for 20 years. The whole apple store makeover thing was really annoying. 1.The batteries on the cameras were always flat.
    2.The DSLR’S never had any lenses on them. Yes I know you are selling body only I had to reply a thousand times when I wanted to look at a 5D2 or whatever.
    3. The staff just chatted among themselves and never helped anyone.
    It just comes down to customer service which sadly went out of the window.
    I will admit that they were less annoying than Jacobs across the road whose staff who had mastered the art of belittling their customers. It’s sad that they are all now gone. I suggest anyone who wants to open a camera shop go have look at B&H in New York.

  • Robert Peckham, Imagexperts / iMAGEX

    Speaking as a former Jessops employee who has been around photo retail for over 30 years, there were too many missed opportunities and lack of dynamic vision to blame for the demise of Jessops. The sad thing is there were real signs of hope in the past 15 months that things were turning around.

  • colin

    Well i live in inverness and we got a new upgraded store last year and was realy surprised when one saturday in january i found it to be closed , it will be sadly missed from our highstreet .