The former Jessops store in Liverpool has been taken over by North West photographic chain Wilkinson Cameras and is set to reopen on 1 August, Amateur Photographer (AP) can reveal.
The outlet – at 51 Lord Street – shut down in January when Jessops’ previous owners went into administration.
Some stores elsewhere have since reopened under Jessops’ new owner, the entrepreneur Peter Jones.
The Liverpool outlet will be the first Wilkinson store to open in a major city, but its boss tells AP he is eyeing up other locations where he sees potential for expansion.
‘Manchester is still a city on our hitlist,’ said Wilkinson Cameras managing director David Parkinson (pictured), who explained that the new Liverpool branch will create up to five jobs.
The move will mean that the 27-year-old chain will run a total of 10 stores by August.
Established in 1986, Wilkinson Cameras currently has branches in Preston, Blackburn, Lancaster, Burnley, Kendal, Southport, Carlisle, Bury and Warrington.
The four-floor premises in Liverpool will house facilities for taking portraits, and host workshops and tutorials. It will also sell second-hand equipment.
Parkinson said he wants to ‘take the best bits’ from his other shops ‘to build into new sites’ – the Liverpool store serving as an experimental model.
He wants it to ‘engage with the community’, to include manufacturer-backed ‘photo safaris’ where customers get the chance to play with kit on trips outside the shop.
Though Wilkinson does not plan any more new shops this year, Parkinson says he will look to expand into other northern cities once he has gauged the success of the Liverpool venture.
Billed as Wilkinson’s flagship, the Liverpool branch was secured ‘after considerable negotiations’ with Jessops’ administrators PwC, said Parkinson.
‘The most important thing is flexibility in the lease,’ Parkinson told AP in an exclusive telephone interview.
While reluctant to reveal details of the deal he reached on the ‘new lease’, he explained he wanted to ensure there was an opt out, to help protect the business from any future high street downturn.
‘None of us can predict what the high street will be like in five years time,’ he said.
Parkinson is mindful of the continued threat from supermarkets and reports of slowing demand for cameras.
‘The pie isn’t getting any bigger. We have to make sure we have a bigger slice of it… Competing with supermarkets is going to be very, very difficult.’
He believes that backing from manufacturers is crucial to future success.
‘We need them to provide personnel, do the training, get the message across and present products in a completely different way.’
Parkinson told AP that he fought off five or six other parties in the Liverpool deal, including competition from fashion and coffee shops.
Though the future focus may be on large cities, he does not plan to close any current stores, adding that shops in towns such as Kendal in Cumbria have proved very successful.
In a separate statement Parkinson said: ‘The new Wilkinson Cameras store in Liverpool is a great step for us – for a long time we’ve looked at having a presence in the city – and the demise of Jessops has only increased the importance of having an experienced photo retailer in town to support the photographic community.’
He said the store will reflect Wilkinson’s core value of ‘expert knowledge, first-class customer service and comprehensive product range’.
Parkinson first expressed an interest in Jessops just days after the chain went into administration under former owners five months ago.
At the time, Parkinson said Wilkinson’s choice of potential locations was constrained by high rents payable at some Jessops sites, such as central Manchester. He was told Jessops was paying £170,000 a year at its Manchester branch – too high a figure for Wilkinson to consider, given the profit margin on digital cameras.
Earlier this year Wilkinson Cameras reported success in its second-hand camera business, which it first trialled last summer.
Parkinson sees trading in used cameras as a ‘contributing factor’ to the future success of high-street camera shops.
According to Parkinson, the new Liverpool store will be looking for staff with a great passion for photography above anything else.
For recruitment information visit www.wilkinson.co.uk/careers.