Studio photography chain Olan Mills collapses

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The Independent Online

Studio photography business Olan Mills has become the latest corporate casualty after shutting all its 34 sites across the UK, it emerged today.

The group, which traded largely out of Mothercare stores, announced that it ceased trading on Boxing Day and was poised to call in administrators.

Olan Mills said it was "endeavouring to fulfil all outstanding orders" for photography already taken, but admitted that those that had pre-paid for vouchers or gift boxes would have to queue up in the list of creditors for any refunds.

Its collapse will hit many families that bought photographic studio sessions as Christmas presents and it is thought that hundreds of jobs have also been put at risk.

The group - headquartered in Irthlingborough, Northamptonshire - said it hoped to post out photography direct to customers during January.

Those that pre-paid by credit card will be able to claim refunds from their credit card company, but customers who paid by cash, debit card or cheque will have to claim as unsecured creditors.

David Glew, 62, from Lincoln, told The Times newspaper that he only discovered the company had closed down when he arrived for a studio session that had been bought for him and his wife as a present.

"My children's present to my wife and me was a £300 family portrait session, but we went for our appointment on Saturday and the studio had closed," he said.

"It's very convenient they closed immediately after getting their Christmas money in."

Olan Mills Photography specialised in baby and family portraits, with more than half its 34 UK studios based within the Mothercare chain, but it also operated stand-alone studios at sites including Coventry, Derby, Peterborough, Nottingham.

The firm had reportedly come close to going bust two years ago during the Christmas period, but is said to have been rescued by a management buyout.

Olan Mills also operates as a studio business in the US, where it originally launched in 1932 and is one of America's largest portrait photography businesses.

But it is believed the US group has not been affected by the closure of the UK business, which is said to have broken away from its parent firm years ago and has since existed as a completely separate company sharing only their name.

The US group was founded by Olan Mills and his wife Mary and has grown into a business of more than 125 free-standing studios, with concessions also in retail chains in a similar business model to that used in the UK.

According to the Olan Mills US website, the UK business was launched in 1981 and at one stage operated from around 100 studios.