The end of Jessops

Though they have had financial troubles before, this really does seem to be the end for Jessops, the UK's chain of local photo shops. They have gone into administration, all stores are closed and all 1400+ employees have been given notice.  Now they may have had their faults, and some of the stores and some of the staff weren't the most knowledgeable, but others were very helpful, great photography enthusiasts and certainly did know their stuff.

I've been using them since the 1980's and bought from them as recently as last Autumn, my Nikon D600. When I bought that camera I was in the shop for 45 minutes, got to try it out with various lenses and had a long discussion with a well-informed assistant. I also got it at a decent price for the time. Yes I could have bought it slightly cheaper elsewhere, but I wasn't sure about buying it and having the opportunity to handle it was very useful.

I had three local stores and though they weren't always right up to date with the latest cameras, they did have decent stock and also would put together decent bundle deals throughout the year. I bought an Olympus E-PM1 package with two lenses which when I sold it all on ebay, I made a profit, so their prices were always pretty competitive. And I guess that is what did for them in the end. Internet, box-shifter prices with the expense of stores and staff just wasn't sustainable.

Personally I find this very sad. I've bought a lot from Jessops over the years and though the days when they would have all sorts of weird and wonderful accessories tucked away are long gone, they were a decent shop selling a wide variety of cameras and lenses and most importantly a place where you could see things, handle them, try them out and compare them with alternatives. The only options I have now is a London Camera Exchange Shop some miles away and a couple of stores in Birmingham City Centre, none of which are as easy to get to as the closed Jessops stores.

I do buy a lot of stuff online, but again, if posible I try to buy from actual shops. There are a lot of small stores that I have known for years who now operate very successful online businesses. SRS Microsystems and Mathers of Lancashire being a couple of examples. Park Cameras, one of the UK's biggest online camera stores also has a shop, and an expanding one at that, it is however miles away from me.

Now if I bought exclusively from box-shifters then I couldn't really complain about Jessops going bust, but I certainly have used them a lot over the years and in recent times. However there is the question as to how companies like this can survive online discounting and the current economic situation. The answer is probably either with difficulty or not at all. Its easy to say that we as photographers should support our local stores, because once they are gone they seem to be gone forever, but the economy is making things a struggle for everyone and saving a few pounds by buying online is not something many people can ignore. 

A possible solution might be companies opening up their retail outlets. Canon, Nikon, Panasonic etc. versions of the Apple Store might be an idea, though in the current climate I can't see it happening. All of this of course makes my comments about responsible reviewing all the more pertinent. Since the only way it seems we are going to be able to get some idea of what a camera or lens is like, is by reading reviews and ordering it online, then the internet review and assessment becomes ever more important.

Who amongst us would buy a car without a test drive? I certainly wouldn't, but I buy photo gear sight unseen. Part of the reason for that is that I have often have no alternative and am forced to do it. However if was able to go and see what I'm considering in all cases, then I would do it. I would also be prepared to pay slightly more for the privilege, because I have made some mistakes. Things that looked just what I wanted in pictures, were somewhat different when I unpacked the box. By trying before buying I'd probably end up saving money.

So its another one gone (well 187 actually) and I doubt its the end of the diminishing of the camera store option here in the UK. Its regrettable and yet predictable. It does however seem to be to be the end of an era. Much of my early photographic life was linked with Jessops and I've got drawers full of flash brackets, rain covers, lead extensions and all sorts of other accessories I've bought from them. 

Finally on a human level, one of the assistants at my local store has been there for over 25 years. He was a knowledgeable, experienced photographer and a genuine enthusiast who I always enjoyed talking to. He was also always incredibly helpful to me on many occasions. He now would seem to have more time to pursue his interest, but I just wonder how he's feeling right now. It wasn't his fault that the company went broke and its often the case that the people who are responsible for mismanagement and the inability to see the future are the ones who get out with their bank accounts still flush, and of course in some U.K. cases with knighthoods and £500,000 per annum pensions! 

Jessops won't be the last to go under, but they will probably be the store I'll miss the most. That inviting white name on the blue background always promised much when I approached it. Where I find my replacement "cave of delights" is anybodys guess.

N.B. to see more on the cameras and lenses featured in this post click on the relevant labels (tags and keywords) below.

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