I don’t know whether I’m sad or happy that the awful Jessops chain has gone bust. I guess I’m sad for the Jessops employees, it’s not their fault. I guess I’m sad for people holding gift vouchers, deposits for goods ordered, or even the few people that still used their photo processing service, because you guys have lost the lot. As for Jessops themselves, what goes around comes around, good riddance to the cuckoo of the photo world.
What the world has probably forgotten about Jessops is that they built their empire by helping to destroy the independent camera shop industry.
Alan Jessop took over the business from his father Frank and set about creating a ruthless cut price store from the Leicester base. They openly advised mail order customers to go to their local camera shops, choose the item they wanted using the skills of the independent retailers, and then go back to them to buy it cut price.
While this may not seem unusual today, in the 1970’s, in an industry that had grown out of a time of massive trade restrictions with the far east, run mainly by ex-RAF enthusiasts it was not a gentlemanly way to do things.
At the same time, the importation of camera equipment was undergoing a massive resolution. Up until the 1970, cameras were imported into the UK by independent firms with a sense of honour. J J Silbers looked after Canon, David Williams was Olympus, Rank imported Nikon and Pentax, Fallowfields were Konica, Photopia / Mayfair Photographic were Minolta. Within a few years, the manufactures all set up in the UK, and were happy to “do deals” with the powerful. Jessops buying power ensured that they could undercut and eventually kill off anyone.
Not happy with decimating the high street camera shops, Jessops turned to whole selling goods to the reducing number of independent shops left struggling to make ends meet. Desperate to try to compete on crazy low margins, the shops started to turn their backs on traditional suppliers like Sangers and Swains, putting all of their eggs in the Jessops basket. This had two effects, it increased Jessops buying power, and gave them valuable information on where to locate new stores.
Alan Jessop achieved what he wanted and cut and ran in the 1990’s, doing very nicely thank you.
So there you have it, a once proud industry gone forever. Thanks Jessops and good riddance. Still at least we still have Amazon and eBay.