Entrepreneur Peter Jones, the new owner of Jessops, has confirmed plans to open up to 36 stores after giving them a u00a34 million makeover.

The planned revival of the 78-year-old retailer is expected to create up to 500 jobs, most to go to former employees of Jessops which hit the buffers in January and closed all of its 187 shops.

CLICK HERE TO READ INTERVIEW WITH PETER JONES

The first six stores, set to open over the Easter weekend, are based
at Oxford Street in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Aberdeen, High
Wycombe and St Albans.

Amateur Photographer (AP) understands that the Oxford Street and Birmingham outlets will open tomorrow (Thursday).

Declaring ‘I’m in’, the Dragons’ Den star
plans to open up to 30 more branches in April, at the rate of one per
day, meaning that almost a fifth of Jessops outlets could spring back to
life.

The total number of stores to be opened is unclear, as AP has been told it will be up to 36, but reports elsewhere suggest 30.

Jones, who will serve as the company’s CEO and chairman,
said: ‘Britain’s high street is fighting back – the facts show it – and I
am giving my personal commitment to its resurgence by reopening the
doors of one of Britain’s most historic retailers.’

He added: ‘I
am taking the helm as chairman and chief executive because I believe
Jessops is an iconic British brand which can lead the retail resurgence
on Britain’s high streets, powered by new innovations and world-leading
expert staff.’

The news coincides with the revival of the Jessops website, which is due to go live tomorow.

Outlining
his business plan (with hints of a pitch plucked from the Dragons’ Den TV
programme in which he stars) Jones said the business is forecasting
sales of ‘over £80m in Year One’, and will give the retailer ‘nearly 15% of
the DSLR camera market in the UK’.

The multi-millionaire said he is ‘convinced’ the public will back the brand.

‘Image
is everything and even in the mobile and tablet era, there’s no
substitute for a quality camera when it comes to taking the perfect
picture,’ he said.

‘Jessops’ hallmark expertise and customer service will now be available again to customers across the UK.’

Jones’
plans have been buoyed by British Retail Consortium figures which show
that UK retail sales rose 2.7% in February, on a like-for-like basis, the
fastest since December 2009.

Many former customers and suppliers
were left out of pocket two months ago when administrators pulled the plug on a
business founded by Frank Jessop in 1935.

Visitors to the revamped stores can expect to see the return of Jessops Academy, but will be mindful that many lost pre-paid photography course fees when the chain went belly-up.

The ‘reconfigured’ stores will also feature ‘Play Tables’, designed to give customers an interactive experience with products.

Jones bought the Jessops name and website for £1.4 million.

The amount paid for the stores has not been disclosed.

Jones – who is the 100% owner of Jessops – already operates a
technology products website that sells cameras, called Expansys.

Amateur
Photographer
magazine recently put Jones in touch with Alan Jessop, the retired son
of the chain’s founder, following a request from the office of the
Buckinghamshire-based businessman.

Figures released by the CBI, yesterday, show that UK retail sales flattened in March, in volume terms.

The CBI’s data – drawn from a survey of 118 firms that included 69
retailers – adds that retailers predict demand to pick up in April.