Jessops the Latest Big Name Retailer to Fall

Jessops is one of the latest big retailers to completely fold and its collapse is a sad indictment of where we currently are in terms of UK industry. It is yet another tale of a High Street retailer that couldn’t cope with competition from online companies. There seems to be a recurring theme: High Street retailer either doesn’t see or doesn’t understand the threat emanating from online businesses. By the time they realise what is happening, it is far too late and they end up bankrupt. Retail is a competitive and unforgiving industry as Comet, HMV and Clinton Cards have all found out recently.

The Demise of Jessops

Founded in 1935 by Frank Jessop in Leicester, this store specialised in the sale of photographic equipment and its revenue was several hundred million pounds a year at its peak. Yet the challenge from online rivals was too much to cope with and the company became the first big name High Street casualty of 2013 though it has quickly been followed by others. As is the case with HMV and other stores, gift cards bought at the store are worthless. Unlike HMV which is still open, Jessops has been completely closed down. Poor sales figures over Christmas was the final straw and all 187 stores in the UK have shut for good. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) were hired as administrator this week and announced the closure along with the loss of around 1,370 jobs.

Jamie Haston, a leading Scottish business figure and Managing Director of Central Scotland Joinery said “It is extremely sad to see another high street brand face administration. As a business owner myself with multiple showrooms I am aware of the rising costs of running customer facing properties and as these costs are not something online retailers have it is easy to see how they can offer lower price points.”

The Fate of the Employees

Although some employees have been retained in order to complete the closure and return stock to suppliers, it is a terrible event for those who have lost their jobs. It is never easy to be laid off at any time of the year but in the aftermath of Christmas when bills and expenditure is sky high, it is an especially cruel blow. One former employee, Nikita Cantle, spoke of her dismay at the closure. She admitted that the job had been a relief to her since she was unemployed before being hired at Jessops and stated that she had looked for over 400 jobs in London before finding work. Now she has to restart this difficult process.

Spare a thought for employees of the Warrington branch of Jessops who came up with an innovative method of attracting the attention of would-be employers. They put their photographs up on the store window along with contact details. It was a clever idea but only highlighted the desperate measures ex-employees of Jessops need to go to in order to get back to work. We wish we could tell you of a happy ending but the window display is no longer visible after Jessops asked for it to be taken down.

With the loss of another major retailer, we have to ask the question: When will this purge end and how many more people will become unemployed during this brutal cull? 2013 has started very badly for High Street retailers and the signs are that many more stores will follow Jessops into bankruptcy. If and when that happens, the job outlook in the UK will look bleaker than ever.

We also spoke to Internet entrepreneur and web consultant Khalid Al-Khames. Khalid, who has run a string of successful websites in multiple sectors including transportation, health and mobility, and finance, said “It is a real shame businesses are brought to their knees by a slowing economy, however I can’t help but feel angry at those in the upper levels of management who have let this happen. Surely if they acted quicker they could have minimised the damage and not gone completely under. I ultimately feel sorry for the thousands of employees who are unemployed.”

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