On Wednesday, I heard the rumour that one of the most recognised high street photography chain store, Jessops was going into administration. I was shock but not surprised. After their previous trouble announcement in 2009, I knew something is going on. Though they kept on trading. On Thursday morning, the news broke and confirmed that they are going bankrupt. The entire chain of over 170 stores across UK were to close by end of day Friday, all retail staff immediately lost their jobs and certainly not a great start for the weekend and the new year for that matter.
UK has already seen a few big known names collapses in the past couple of years but as a photographer, I am particularly sad about the loss of Jessops. It may not be my favourite place to shop for the past five years but I do go into the one to browse around everytime I walk pass one, wherever I am. Last year, one of my favourite high street photography chain, Jacob, also died. Now there are only a couple of smaller chains left in UK, London Camera Exchange and Camera World. Neither are very visible and out of the two, I only like London Camera Exchange. Calumet is slightly different and I won’t count it as a retail as they operate as a professional rental specialist who also sells equipment.
The collapse of Jessops and Jacob can be blamed on the changing habits from consumers. Like everyone else, I do look around for bargains. Before the rise of internet, you can simply drop into different shops to check on prices and there were only a few you could compare. However, the rise of internet introduced hundreds if not thousands of shopping channels across the globe! The price difference can be as much as 15% for some genuine UK models. Surely that will deter price-conscious customers these days.
Higher retail price was one thing but for me, the biggest blow was the changing shopping experience in store. I loved Jacob because of their very friendly and knowledgeable staff. Jessops, once operated like Jacob, had wonderful and true photographer oriented staff simply turned into sales oriented and commission driven employees. Many times I went to Jessops and got dismissed by their staff simply because I knew more then them! Of course, I am a photographer for pete sake. So there you have it. Being named as one of the biggest photography stores in UK but doesn’t operate like one.
As more and more electrical stores sell cameras and the addition of online stores, Jessops’ retail strategy simply couldn’t compete. Experts like us wouldn’t go there, their prices were competitive and their staff were no longer the one to ‘talk’ to. Sad it seems that they go but perhaps I won’t miss them too much. I now just hope that more local and more ‘proper’ photography stores will bounce back to the local high streets.
RIP Jessops. RIP Jacobs.