Another of the British high street’s familiar names collapsed tonight, as every branch of the camera retailer Jessops closed down with the loss of more than 1,300 jobs.
Describing the sudden development as “an extremely sad day for Jessops and its employees”, Administrator PriceWaterhouseCoopers said even more jobs could be lost in future when the fate of the company’s Leicester head office is decided.
It confirmed that all 187 of the chain’s stores had closed, and that customers were now unable to return anything they had purchased. Five stores had already been shut down between Christmas and the appointment of administrators this week.
“It is apparent that we cannot continue to trade and as a result we have had to make the difficult decision to begin the closure of all 187 Jessops stores at the close of business,” said PWC’s Rob Hunt. He added that Jessops’ stock will be collected over the coming days and taken to a central warehouse.
Mr Hunt continued: “We are very grateful for the support we have received since our appointment and we will continue to ensure that employees are paid as they assist us during the closure.”
Jessops, which opened its first shop in 1935, becomes Britain’s first high street casualty of 2013. As recently as 2009, the company sidestepped administration after securing a debt-for-equity swap with its lender, HSBC, after a litany of profit warnings.
However, since then it has continued to struggle with competition from online rivals and the proliferation of smartphones equipped with cameras, undercutting its core market. The company posted a £5.2m loss for the year to January 2012. It also lost chief executive Trevor Moore, who quit to become head of music chain HMV, and chairman David Adams last year.
In 2010, Mr Moore said: “I don’t think it gets much more secure than being 47 per cent owned by HSBC. They are committed to a long-term plan for Jessops - it is not about a quick turnaround or spin-out.”
The announcement of job losses comes at a particularly bad time for staff, as the weeks following Christmas and New Year traditionally prove to be an expensive time for most families.
Earlier this week, analysts said the firm’s collapse was inevitable. Neil Saunders, managing director of retail research agency Conlumino, said: “Jessops has had to contend with all of those dynamics while at the same time grappling with the fact that the market for cameras has been in terminal decline. Over the past few years the market for amateur cameras has shrunk as consumers have switched to using their smartphones for photographic needs.
“Meanwhile, while the professional market has remained fairly solid many photographers have been content to buy from niche online specialists where prices are cheaper and ranges are more extensive. This has left Jessops serving a dwindling number of consumers.”
Retail analyst Nick Bubb said the quality of mobile phone cameras and the popularity of tablets such as the iPad were both detrimental to Jessops. “Smart phones are getting better and better at taking photos,” he said.
“Given that social media is all about swapping photos on a smart phone, Jessops’ market has become specialist, for semi-professional photographers, and that’s not enough to justify a big chain.
“Also, tablets have emerged as an alternative way of spending a couple of hundred pounds on a present for someone. With competition from smart phones and online retailers, administration was probably inevitable.”