Jessops stores may have vanished for good, but independent camera shops stand to gain from the chainu2019s demise, finds Amateur Photographer (AP). But are they rubbing their hands with glee?

‘Business has been absolutely bubbling,’ says Tony Stent, director of CameraWorld which operates stores in central London and Chelmsford, Essex.

‘First it was Jacobs and then, the bigger, Jessops effect.’

Stent believes there is ‘definitely a future’ for specialist high-street photo retailers, but points out that the full impact of Jessops’ disappearance won’t be felt for some time.

‘It’s early days,’ he tells AP, reluctant to speculate on how much his stores stand to gain.

‘It’s good and bad news,’ adds Reg Atkins, managing director of Park Cameras, a 42-year-old business based in Burgess Hill, West Sussex.

He told Amateur Photographer (AP): ‘I feel for the [Jessops] staff. And consumer confidence is going to take a knock – paying with any gift vouchers is going to be hit after what has happened at Jessops and HMV.’

Yet, like Stent, Atkins is upbeat. He estimates that hundreds of camera shops could pick up business worth tens of millions of pounds in the wake of Jessops’ high-street exit.

Though the likes of Argos and Tesco may gain from sales of cheaper cameras, Atkins sees independents as the places to go for models costing above £200.

This is an area, he says, where training and advice delivered by stores such as Park Cameras will be key to pulling in business from the photo enthusiast.

‘My hope is that these gaps, will gradually, naturally, be filled,’ adds Stent who does not rule out new stores appearing where, following Jessops closure, there will be ‘voids’ to fill.

Risks for newcomers

However, it seems that, for any newcomer without experience in the industry, operating on the high street could prove risky in today’s economic climate.

‘There are not enough [profit] margins for people coming into the business… to wheel and deal and sell a diverse range of products,’ warns Stent.

As for Jessops’ demise, it did not come as a shock.  

Atkins, says he foresaw the chain’s imminent downfall, given that the rent and VAT were due to be paid around this time of year, and that Jessops’ stock appeared to be low.

Atkins says that when he visited a Jessops branch in Taunton on 3 January there was no DSLR priced over £400 in stock.

‘Jessops had fewer brands in stock and were not really showing customers the full range of products,’ he tells AP.

A camera chain may no longer be a viable option, but it seems this is no time for other camera stores to rest on their laurels.

Stent stresses the importance of independents keeping down their costs, while continuing to focus on providing expert-level service and stocking a range of products.

Online threat

While, Atkins says independent retailers can emerge as winners from the situation, he calls on the government to prevent some of the online – UK registered – retailers from sourcing cheap cameras from the ‘US and the Far East’ – and undercutting high-street shops by advertising prices excluding VAT.

He points out that this means models are being quoted online at ‘below cost price’ – a figure high-street shops find difficult to compete against.

‘That’s the principal reason Jessops went under. They tried to match these prices,’ says Atkins – a view echoed by CameraWorld.

‘There came a time for the [Jessops’] bank to say “enough’s enough”,’ continues Stent, who cites Jessops’ shift away from products aimed at the photo enthusiast – towards ‘gadgets’ – as another key reason for its collapse.

‘It moved away from being a proper hobby shop.’

Is there a fear that the likes of Canon and Nikon may, one day, bypass the retailer altogether and sell direct to customers?

Yesterday, an unfounded industry rumour that Canon was poised to buy 50 Jessops stores was swiftly shot down by administrator, PwC, when approached by AP.

In any case, Stent believes that such a business model, where the consumer is faced with only one brand on show, would not work in a market where photographers like to compare products from different manufacturers.

Though Atkins believes there are 50-60 Jessops stores that could turn a profit, camera makers would fail to benefit from taking over a store in a prime location, where they would be faced with high rent, for example – unless they were ‘massively subsidised’.

‘Some of these stores are too big to justify [selling] a single brand,’ he explains.

Atkins says that even if manufacturers consider selling direct to
customers from their own stores – ‘if it gets to the point
where they cannot see themselves getting enough sales through existing
outlets’ – he believes this would not be a valid business proposition given the profit margins on camera kit alone, where such a store would require a ‘turnover of £5m to break even’.

Meanwhile, Atkins calls on manufacturers to support the independents by not setting unrealistic, ‘inflated’, sales targets in the wake of Jessops’ disappearance.

He also wants to see more camera brands supporting independent shops, by providing ‘in-store demonstrators’.

And Park Cameras hopes suppliers will, in future, offer shops higher discounts on demonstration models when they expect stores to stock cameras that are launched in a wide range of colours.

  • Canon and Nikon have refused to say how much Jessops owed them when its 187 stores ceased trading last Friday – neither firm was willing to comment. Unofficial estimates run into several millions, with Canon the more heavily hit of the two, according to an industry insider. According to administrator PwC, stock will be returned to suppliers, if they are entitled to it.

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  • DOTTY GREENHALGH

    The Jessops store on Deansgate in .Manchester always seemed to have knowledgable staff who were prepared to spend. time explaining to amateurs when questions were asked. We went back and/or telephoned many times when we bought a compact digital To make sure we were getting what we really wanted so it was resl shame that even they went down very early on in the
    Jessops demise!

  • Barry M

    Bit late for my local independant had been trading since 1980 till last year folded in 2 weeks, gone are the expertise and pleasant manners help and repairs also gone ,not just my local but 2 others in the local area, swindon, Gloucester and Cheltenham i think ?

  • Sam Chapman

    The difference in price of goods bought in street-based retailers vs mail-order/internet based retailers has been rumbling along since the beginning of mail-order businesses in the late 60s. It was then often the case that a mail-order company could sell things like film, for less to customers than the shop-based retailers could buy those items from the film manufacturer’s salesmen!

    The internet, has just made this disparity even greater, and I wouldn’t mind betting that nowadays, a fair number of customers, visit a shop to see if something is what they want, but then go home and buy it Online, because it’s cheaper, and they have been deluded into thinking that if they have a question, problem etc, internet websites can resolve the problems/issues they face at some time after purchase, or failing that, their nearby retailer (whom they rarely buy anything from) will come to their assistance.

    Maybe I am painting a far worse picture of how things are, than they actually are, and that people are not as mercenary as I make them out to be, but things like this, certainly do happen. The challenge facing the importers/manufacturers, is how to make buying goods from a shop, more appetising than buying Online?

    One way might be, if shops could offer customers (who physically walk into a shop) longer or/and more comprehensive warranties than available from their internet-based counterparts? One way or another, the benefit offered, can’t be internet-based, since some bright and devious individual will undoubtedly find a way of accessing these benefits, without buying the goods at a shop!

    Unfortunately, the range of services which shops do and could offer, (which their internet-based counterparts do not) are invariably ‘services’ which customers find invaluable at some point AFTER they have bought something. Would something like I have outlined above, be a sufficiently big enough incentive to draw customers away from the internet-based companies? … I don’t know for sure, but I would have thought it would ‘convert’ quite a significant number of customers over to buying from a shop.

  • Graeme Pettit

    I think it began with Jessops resistance to digital. Personally, I ended up going elsewhere to get the gear I wanted, then when I returned, I found that the shops were ‘manned’ by young staff who were not product aware – I never went back again. I will always support the good independents, but I suspect that the trade on the web, with volume bringing down price in comparison, may not allow the long term survival except at the highest end.

  • Allan

    I know jessops will not last soon because they sell higher prices compare to other retailers.

  • Mike Williams

    I’m probably rather longer on this earth than many, but I can remember when Jessops offered a full hobbyist/pro service, in that you could part-exchange your equipment, as well as browse through stocks of used goodies if new was not on your agenda.
    At that stage, there were genuinely knowledgeable staff in store, with the attitude to help customers, even if they didn’t buy that day/week or month. The experience was good enough to make you want to go again.
    My local store – in Telford – appeared to have new staff every other month. Many were simply ignorant of products that were on their own shelves.
    Management appeared to set ever higher (impossible?) targets, and when these were not met, simply disposed of the staff, replacing them with others who often lacked any sense or reason to be behind the counter.
    Sorry Jessops, you took your eye away from the viewfinder for too long, and didn’t realise your subject had moved out of frame.

  • Jacobs

    I must admit that Jessops are a leg behind with the compition.
    Anyhow, What happened to the stok?

  • Ian Cook

    I think people should wake up to reality! All that will happen is that people will go into their local camera shop to look at what they want, then buy cheaper online. It is simply thats the way it is!

  • Chris Gallaghert

    I gave up using them for printing a couple of years ago once I realised there were less heavy handed, more flexible and cheaper option available. Since then, I used then twice to pick decent manfrotto tripods in the sale, but they had the last word, leaving me holding a £50 gift voucher when they went belly up

  • Rob

    I truly hope that the independant stores come together to form a buying power like Euronics does for Electrical stores. This allows them to have the buying power of a major company like Jessops, but spreads it across the small independant stores giving them a great price, and inturn the customers a great price.

  • John Williams

    Ironic that Jessops world domination expansion plans, which were all about buying out or placing a store next to the independents , eventually ended up helping the ones that managed to survive.

  • Macjim

    Interesting report but what happened to the ending?

  • Des Gardner FRPS

    Other Photographic shops should not be rubbing their hands just yet about Jessops no longer being with us! Internet shopping will finish a few more large establishments off in the next couple of years, I buy my gear from Calumet who know how to look after their customers and they never loose touch with customers when they are not buying! unlike some, ever bought a expensive bit of kit and gone into the shop the next day and they cant even remember your name, know what I mean…….

  • Ian Marr

    I Always found jessops more expensive than any other camera store so stopped going I expect other people did too

  • Idreamedof

    “It moved away from being a proper hobby shop.” says it all