Current chairman blames ‘sins of the past’
Jessops chairman David Adams has strongly refuted claims by a former boss that the chain has left the photographic enthusiast behind in favour of the mass market.
Speaking yesterday, on the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, ex-boss Tim Brookes – who left Jessops before it floated on the stock market in 2004 – said: ‘I think the demise really started after flotation when the philosophy and strategy of the business suddenly changed.
‘Jessops was concentrating on the keen amateur photographer as its main customer. I think they tried to keep up with the likes of Dixons, Argos and Boots? Jessops left its true customer base behind.’
But, in an interview with Amateur Photographer magazine, Adams hit back: ‘We are not walking away from the core of the business… the camera enthusiast.’
Adams – who joined Jessops in 2007 – agreed that Jessops has increasingly focused on the mass market in order to compete with large retail chains and supermarkets.
But he described Brookes’ comments as ‘ill-informed’ and said it was a ‘bit rich’ to blame current management for the chain’s troubles.
‘Sins of the past’
Adams blamed the ‘sins of the past’, citing ‘overexpansion, too many stores and too much debt’, as the current team ‘wrestle’ with a trading position that does not support its borrowing.
He described some of Jessops’ past acquisitions as ‘crazy’ and pointed to the burden of the ‘£60m’ stock level at the time he joined.
‘There was this headlong rush for space at any cost with no infrastructure.. Therein lies the problems of the company, not a desertion of its customer base,’ he added.
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Picture: Current chairman David Adams (above) largely blames Jessops’ troubles on previous ‘overexpansion’ and strongly denies claims by former boss Tim Brookes (below) that Jessops has left its core market behind
Adams: We are not run by the bank
Adams also rebutted Brookes’ claim that the business is now being run ‘for the bank, by the bank’ and that it has ‘lost its way’.
Brookes told the BBC: ‘The bank has to recognise that the business cannot service that [£60m] level of debt. The bank has to take a hit. It is not acknowledging it has a problem.’
Adams retorted: ‘We have made it very clear that we are working towards a solvent solution?’
He confirmed that the capital restructure of Jessops is expected to conclude before the end of the summer, though he declined to comment further as negotiations continue.
It is reported this will involve a ‘debt-for-equity’ swap with its bank, HSBC.
Adams remains optimistic about the firm’s future and expects recently appointed chief executive Trevor Moore to play a key role.
The storm broke out hours after Jessops reported a 4.7% fall in like-for-like sales for the 12 weeks to 16 August.
Tim Brookes led a management buyout team in 1996, following the retirement of Alan Jessop.
? A fuller interview with David Adams will appear in a future issue of AP