Digital cameras click for Jessops' Christmas

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The Independent Online

The chief executive of Jessops played down the significance of Kodak's decision to stop selling traditional film cameras in Western Europe and the US, as the specialist photographic retailer revealed its sales had surged over Christmas.

Derek Hine, the chief executive of the privately owned group, said Kodak's move did not signal the death knell of traditional photography, because the group had never sold 35mm cameras in the UK in any case. Given that film cameras lasted an average of seven years, he said, "there would always be any number of people out there who still have them".

Yet it was surging demand for digital cameras that buoyed Jessops' sales over the festive period, he admitted. Comparable store sales in the five weeks to 4 January rose by 8.3 per cent, making Jessops one of the strongest performers on the high street.

Mr Hine said sales of digital cameras and accessories had soared by 50 per cent year-on-year. "For the first time digital cameras penetrated the mass market in a significant way," he added. He said the group had been more aware of rivals such as Boots - which said sales of digital cameras were up 200 per cent against the previous Christmas - but remained "happy to trade alongside fringe competitors on the high street".

The group, which was acquired in a £116m deal by ABN Amro Capital in October 2002, expects to expand its 250-strong store estate by a further 20 new sites next year. Mr Hine said he saw potential to open up to 450 sites in the UK, but declined to be pinned down to a timetable.

The company, which has long been keen to expand internationally, attempted a stock market flotation in early 2001 but was forced to pull it at the last minute.

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