/ Shopping, Technology

Jessops finally snaps – was I to blame?

So, I was sad to hear that national camera retailer Jessops is going into administration. And then a second feeling came over me… a small measure of culpability.

Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t say that I’m directly to blame. The rise and rise of the cameraphone has had a devastating knock-on effect for sales of digital cameras, and last time I checked, I didn’t design the cameraphone (I barely even use my own).

But one thing I resolutely haven’t done is bought a single thing at Jessops this side of the millennium.

Get your bargains online

The last time I bought a camera from Jessops, it took film. That’s how long it’s been since the store has had any kind of relevance to me.

I’ve purchased two digital cameras in my time, and in both cases I snapped them up online for a significant discount compared to what I’d get on the high street.

I’ve bought lenses for my DSLR, and again, I headed online for these. SD cards? I wouldn’t dream of paying the ludicrous prices you’d find for these on the high street when you can get them online at a fraction. And I suspect this sort of behaviour makes me rather a lot like many UK consumers and potential camera buyers.

The last reel for Jessops

Jessops’ days have been numbered for a while. It’s sad to say, but true. I’ve spoken to the world’s biggest camera manufacturers over the last couple of years and, mark my words, every one of them is shaking in their boots at the challenge of selling cameras to a market that’s largely happy to wave its smartphones around.

This is the same challenge that a specialist camera retailer would face, and that’s before you factor in the better deals that can be found online.

I’ll miss having a browse through the cameras inside a store at Jessops, and actually handling a product I’m considering buying. But any time an assistant came up to me and asked if they could help, the truth was, no – they really couldn’t. And I couldn’t help them either.

Jessops’ administrators have announced that at present the retailer is not in a position to honour customer vouchers or accept returned goods. If you are concerned about Jessops going into administration, perhaps you have a gift voucher or a broken camera, then you can find advice in our guide on what to do if a company goes bust.


@Rich, I don’t think blame can be levelled at you or I for why a company fails. If management don’t offer goods/services at prices people think are reasonable, you can expect this to happen time and time again.

Hopefully, management in other struggling companies will be forced to move away from the Cash Cow retail model and into a valued partner retail model. Although don’t hold you’re breath, many of them have been doing business in a bad way for too long to for us, the consumer, to see any real change.

And I wonder how many people will find out that any cashback they’ve “earned” will not be honoured either.

One cashback site are still offering “Earn 10p when you check in at a Jessops store” and 2% / 5% on purchases made online.

One other thing just google “Jessop administration” and you’ll see 2009, 2010, 2012 in the drop down, so they must have been struggling for a long time, wonder why they kept flogging vouchers, Oh yes its that Cash Cow retail model again aka Greed.

I know the long term memory is a strange thing, but I am sure Jessops was one of the leading photographic mail order companies way back in the 1960’s. This being so they should have been well placed to cash in on the booming on line market and really did not need expensive expansion into nation wide stores. The lessons of the dangers of greed, over expansion and a long line of credit should have been learnt from the previous crashes, but alas the lure is just too great. Freddie Laker well demonstrated the perils of a cash flow only company.

Phil says:
9 January 2013

Back in the days of real, proper photography I bought all my chemicals and film from Jesspos mail order. I always thought their venture into the high street was a mistake.

Indeed, Jessops were very big in mail-order, advertising through Amateur Photographer and other enthusiast magazines. I did think it strange that they began expanding into every High Street at about the same time as most independent camera shops were closing down. So, in my view, they were no longer specialist enough to satisfy the real enthusiasts, and their target customer who just wanted a simple camera for some holiday snaps has since found cheaper outlets and other devices to satisfy that need.

So I don’t think Rich can be blamed for the failure. Every dog has its day, and Jessops have now had theirs, along with nearly all the other great names in the history of photography – Kodak, Polaroid, Agfa, Rollei … .

HappyPig0 says:
10 January 2013

I gave up shopping in Jessops years ago….. Several stores tried, service, attitude and knowledge from staff within them shocking! They had a market proposition but failed to deliver. The had an online business but got it wrong! Like all businesses…. It’s only as good as the people within it! But like too many, it’s easier to blame! Easy come easy go, the pound still in the pocket, and now less mouths to feed it to…. thats all part of driving recovery, a recession / depression always reveals who’s swimming naked!

I’ve always thought Jessops were expensive but did buy some photographic equipment with my employer’s money, simply because Jessops was one of the approved suppliers. I once wanted to buy through Pixmania, but they were not an approved supplier. I purchased a camera with my own money and was badly ripped off. Looking at customers’ reviews after the event, Pixmania had some terrible feedback and that for Jessops was quite good.

Similar here, I had an insurance claim that could only be fulfilled using a “high street retailer”, what a rip off! Jessops was my only “choice”. By the time I had paid their price, the excess and an upgrade penalty I was little better off than if I had bought a new camera with wider choice at my own expense from the internet. The service was abysmal as well, they seemed to know very little about digital camaras, and even less about optics in general.

Phil says:
10 January 2013

Something Which? ought to be campaigning about is how whenever this sort of thing happens consumers (and employees) are left out of pocket whilst the administrators always get their multi-million pound fees paid in full.

Frank says:
10 January 2013

Rich – you say you have been into Jessops to browse cameras and handle the product you are considering buying, but not bought anything. You have then presumably purchased on-line and if this is the case then I think that yes, you are partly to blame for Jessops’ demise. How can a company afford to pay rent on premises and employ staff if nobody buys? If people want to buy off a web site that’s fine but if they want to go and “touch and feel” the product in a shop then they should buy from a shop, otherwise there will be no shops left and none of us will have the choice!


I have done the same myself. Which? reports and users’ reviews are useful but are not a substitute for seeing and handling a product. I often have no idea of what is a good price, so I look at products in the shop and if they meet my requirements I go out to the car and check prices online. I would be happy to pay a price premium of 5% (or more for cheaper items) to buy from a local shop because I can easily go back if there is a problem. If there is a big price advantage of buying online I will do this without guilt.

When Comet went into administration I actually took my iPad (bought from Comet, incidentally) into the local store and checked prices of some Apple accessories. I established that the prices were in fact substantially above the Apple RRP. I mentioned this to a sales assistant who was well aware of the fact.

I am very happy to use shops but only if their prices are reasonable.

You can do much the same thing in Tesco too. Touch and try but only buy if you have the double points bonus vouchers.

Ally says:
10 January 2013

I prefer to shop locally in the ‘high street’ – all other things being equal – or even pay a slight surcharge for the convenience, when it is just that. However I also use the net as I am a long way from my ‘local high street’ It’s great to see the goods before purchase, see alternatives and get advice – when it is good!!

Tried to purchase an item from Jessops shop prior to Christmas but it was unavailable, so one lost sale. They used to price match but seemed to stop that and their advice ‘know it alls’ standards slipped.

Shame for all those who probably will lose their jobs, but for me now, it’s just one less window to look in………..

NukeThemAll says:
10 January 2013

I try to use local shops provided the price premium isn’t excessive – and hope that you get something back in good will, advice, after-sales service etc. My experience of Jessops has been universally dismal. Staff with virtually zero product knowledge, more interested in talking to each other than attending to customers, and for some products outrageously-high prices. My last visit the conversation went something like this….Me: “can I look at this camera please?” Staff: “oh yeah…” (wanders off, no interest….) Me: I can’t seem to turn it on. Is the battery charged?” Staff: “we charge them every morning” (this was 11 am) “nope, battery’s flat.” And so were all the other cameras. And so was my enthusiasm for dealing with them. Sorry to sound callous, but I won’t miss them one little bit. In contrast, there are 2 excellent camera shops locally – I always use them if I can.

Barrie says:
10 January 2013

Frank Couldn’t agree with you more. There’s something about going into a shop, talking to the asst., getting advice (hopefully good ) making the purchase and going home with a nice product. During the process knowing you’d interacted with a fellow human being, helped pay their rates,helped keep someone employed along with all the service staff that were behind the scenes delivery drivers,security,cleaners,mechanics to service the vehicles the list goes on. When you had a problem with equipment taking it back to the store to get it sorted out instead off having to find wrapping material,take it to the post office and waiting weeks to get a reply. Yes the internet is useful some times but in the long run at what p rice to our society. Will I miss Jessops yes as I missed Grataspool but will just have to learn to live with it.

Heather G says:
11 January 2013

The high street v internet is a conundrum but one which sadly is here to stay and I don’t think there is much an individual can do about it. However there is much that high-street shops can do to increase footfall. As an amateur but non-nerdy camera user I’ve tried a camera indie – where the guy was pleasant but talked in a foreign “camera techie” language and then seemed to feel that if I didn’t understand his language then I wasn’t a serious photographer, to Jessops where the two staff members were far more interested in comparing the attributes of their smartphones than serving me. Since then I’ve shopped for my work and for myself with Wex (ex Warehouse Express) and found them to be efficient, competitive, and their after-sales support both online and by telephone has so far been good.

Peter W says:
11 January 2013

To me the sad thing is that Jessops came to dominate the high street camera sales, so forcing many small local specialist camera shops out of business, and now we have even less.

Very sorry that Jessops have gone into administration. I have bought a camera and a photo printer from them in the past few years, got very good deals on both of them, and have found their staff helpful and knowledgeable. (Isle of Man branch). I would rather buy locally, and am happy to pay a reasonable amount extra to be able to see what I’m buying first and to support local shops. I don’t think it’s right for people to go into the shops to research their products, take up their time, and then buy online. If you intend to buy online, do your research online as well, but don’t complain if all your local shops disappear and your town centres die. I have found on many occasions that local shops will match or undercut the online businesses.

An update for you. Sad news I’m afraid, Jessops administrators have announced that Jessops is to close all 187 of its stores: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-20992125

Michael says:
11 January 2013

I suspect that someone needs to investigate High Street landlord rates

Rahat says:
12 January 2013

Hi All,

Personally I am sad that they have closed down as although I have never bought anything from them but it was a great source of comparison with online prices or at least test the equipment before buying online. But lot of people still bought from them regularly who were not comfortable buying from an online store.

All I can say is that the management in Jessops had not woken up to the fact that consumers these days are much more aware of value for money sale and will not be willing to pay the rip off prices when they have the opportunity to buy online for less than one third of the same price. A friend of mine worked as a store manager in one of the Jessops and I asked him the price of an enlarged photo print of 18″x12″ and he said they charge over £25 for one. I had later used an online store to print 44 prints of 18″x12″ for around £60 including postage. Therefore I conclude that their prices were not reflecting the expected and perceived prices of the consumers and this led to their closure. However, I am very sorry for those people who have lost their jobs as a result of that and I hope and pray that 2013 brings prosperity for them.

Mordenman says:
13 January 2013

The Jessops and Comet demise is surely a failure to keep up with the very rapid change of shopping methods we mostly use. I expect retail outlets to become demonstration showrooms where you can handle and examine a sample of the goods prior to them being ordered on line for you, on the spot, for subsequent home delivery. There is an M&S move in this direction for some women’s clothing which worked well for us, and overcame their appallingly bad stock control …. but thats another story.

Not only were Jessops great for Equipment and such, but for many many years they have handled all my Black & White/colour processing and printing, on hearing the news I was devastated! I have since learned that the work was contracted out to other companies, mainly to a lab in Warrington called BPD Photech, I looked them up and contacted them immediately, they were able to clarify that they did indeed carry out this process on Jessops behalf, relieved to say the least. Spread the word all film users….KEEP FILM ALIVE!

If you look at the “Jessops collapses into administration: timeline” in the Daily Telegraph of 9th January I think you can see that the rot probably started with the retirement of Alan Jessop and the £30m management buy-out lead by Tim Brookes. Jessops finally floated its shares on the London stockmarket in 2004 and used the proceeds to pay down £96.8m of debt. In 2009 Jessops avoided administration by securing a debt for equity swap with its lenders HSBC. The restructuring included writing off £34m of debt in exchange for a 47% stake by HSBC, management taking a 20% and the pension fund taking a 33% stake. The pension protection fund adopted the Jessops’ pension scheme in 2009. As well as final salary pension schemes having to fund the PPF it may be that taxpayers have to fund all or part of Jessops’ redundancy payments like the Department of Work and Pensions did with Comet. Incidentally I worked in the Insolvency Service during the 70s till the start of the 80s.

I believe that like Comet, Rover etc this buy-out and the subsequent purchasing of other companies together with the lack of management expertise led to the ultimate failure of Jessops. I think back to my local camera shop (Colourscope) before it was taken over by Jessops and remember that is had a lot of customers and you often had to wait to be served but you could almost always get what you wanted. Before it closed, my local Jessops store usually had more staff than customers in the shop at any one time, probably because if you looked on the website they did not have the stock that you wanted and the prices were higher than other retailers.

A long time before Jessops closed I started buying my camera equipment in person from Park Cameras, even though it is over a 2 hour train ride away, or ordered equipment by mail-order from them, WEX or Amazon. Not only could these suppliers get the goods to me quicker but they were cheaper.

I would urge everyone not to buy gift vouchers as they can become worthless. It has been reported that Jessops gift vouchers were available to buy after it went into administration.

Michael says:
15 January 2013

After reading through the comments in http://crave.cnet.co.uk/gadgets/hmv-gift-cards-youre-at-the-bottom-of-the-pile-50010166/ regading the HMV collapse, it looks like there is going to be civil unrest unless Gift Cards are either banned or treated as cash.

graham says:
12 December 2015

Rahat your comments were typical nothing ever counts for anything in your life only the price