Jessops may open up to 48 stores and branch out into Europe, new owner Peter Jones has told Amateur Photographer (AP) magazine.
Picture credits: C Cheesman
The entrepreneur confirmed plans to open at least 30 stores over the next month, but hinted that the chain could eventually expand to 48 as other branches come within his grasp.
If the plans come to fruition, this would see the revival of a quarter of the 187 shops Jessops shut down in January.
Jones told AP: ‘We are targeting 48 at the moment and it’s going to be over 30, so anywhere between 30 and 48… there are some locations, such as Islington which just came up in the past three days.’
The Islington deal would give Jessops two shops in London, the other being Oxford Street which reopened today (pictured below).
The revival of the branch at Westfield shopping centre in Stratford, east London is also on the cards, while an outlet in Leicester – the historic home of the chain founded by Frank Jessop in 1935 – is not being ruled out.
‘Overheads’ key to survival
The Dragons’ Den tycoon outlined a masterplan based on minimising overheads, but admits he is taking a big risk, and has ‘a challenge on our hands’.
‘The central overheads at the old Jessops were so high – it was very tough for them to do anything,’ he said in an interview with AP at the Oxford Street store earlier today.
‘And with a retail estate where over half were not performing, again, tied into the leases, add debt to that…
‘We’ve got to keep that layer of our cost model [overheads] really under control, and make sure we are buying at the best rates.
‘In terms of centralised distribution operations and central finance, I already have that across my group of companies, so we’ve got a bit of breathing space across the cost base.’
Jones has agreed with suppliers to buy stock at the ‘best rates possible’, and says he has won the support of all manufacturers, many of whom lost millions when the chain collapsed.
‘What’s amazing [is that] 22 manufacturers supplied the old company and 22 have gone live with us today. Not one manufacturer has not wanted to be part of the new story.’
Asked if he has a message for any AP readers who have lost confidence in the brand since the chain went under, Jones replied: ‘The only thing I’d say is that… as much as there will always be someone with an issue, I trust the British public because I don’t think [they] want to see the demise of retail – people love shopping.
‘We also love the convenience of online and if we can get those two working together…
‘We will provide a better service’
In an appeal to former Jessops customers, he said: ‘Come back and try the new experience. We are bigger and better in terms of our punching weight. We are going to provide a better service. We will invest more in our people and staff, but we are doing it on the basis that we are not throwing money at the wall – we’ve got an underlying cost base that’s reduced and will be very low.’
Though Jones has no obligation to those gift card holders who lost out under the previous regime, he has confirmed they will be entitled to claim a gift from his stores.
After buying the Jessops brand name two months ago, Jones wasted no time in registering Jessops Europe Limited at Companies House. So, does this mean the new chairman and CEO has a wider plan to march on Europe?
‘I couldn’t possibly comment, but I don’t do things by halves,’ he replied.
‘This business is an iconic brand. It has real positioning potential across Europe. You never know, you might find us in some key location.
‘But it will be very much predicated around online and retail.
‘I think “collect at store” is going to be the future of the way that we [customers] order product online… Amazon will come under great threat, a serious threat if they don’t adopt an in-store collection point.’
• More from this interview will appear in due course.
Peter Jones (right), with comedian James Corden at the Oxford Street relaunch on Thursday