Jessops has today been resurrected on this Easter weekend from the brink – the high street chain went into administration at the beginning of 2013 to the anger and sadness of many. The high street has been battered in the economic recession – consumers are showing clear trends of moving away from their beloved local stores and adopting online convenience shopping from sites such as Amazon and eBay. The store was saved by Dragons Den star Peter Jones, world class entrepreneur who made his money in computing and entertainment.
“I believe Jessops is an iconic British brand which can lead the retail resurgence on Britain’s high streets.” – Peter Jones
Jessops was founded in 1935 in Leicester – a well known and loved British brand the photography store has seen stiff competition from the internet and the latest round of store closures are a sign of things to come. The brand has been cannibalised by the sale of fellow technological developments such as the smartphone. Almost every mobiles and tablet contain a camera and as software and optics become a sharper focus of tech companies the days of the standalone camera are numbered.
Photography is a staple of human creativity – a source of entertainment a pictures ‘tells a thousand words’ – modern photography is a combination of the arts and the emergence of the consumer technology market. The introduction of the internet and digital photography has meant that anyone can be a photographer; no matter who you are, who much money you have – or even if you’re any good. Of course you can still go and spend £1000’s on professional equipment – but many do not see the need to. Social networks and services like Flickr have enabled a generation of photo taking ‘selfees’ – now come on you have to admit that every time you log on to Facebook there are an abundance of these ‘self’ taken portraits? The power of the image is stronger than ever before in a society where we want constant information – sometimes a news article can be too long winded – therefore the photo offers to represent a story in several frames. The lens has distorted and manipulated human thinking for over 100 years – like any technology it has had its ups and downs. Used to record wars, manipulate social thinking, and advertise corporate ideas – photography has been used to shape the modern world.
Today the photograph holds a humble place in normal life – still seen as an art – however it no longer requires an artist to take such photos; in essence a small amount of the ‘magic’ of photography has been lost. Anybody can take a photo – and this is great for diversity, but we all know how many times we’ve seen Dad’s crucify and mangle family photos – especially on a special occasion. Nevertheless technology allows us all to be interconnected and the ability to share these photos via synchronous services like Facebook has broadened social understanding of photography.
The smartphone has led to the development and reborn interest in photo taking – applications for devices can now provide professional looking photos on smaller – cheaper cameras. To date, on Flickr (Popular photo sharing site), Apples iPhone 4S remains the top camera used on their site – beating competition from the likes of Nikon and Canon.
Peter Jones is to invest in the crippling chain of Jessops, but he better have a plan. Currently proposed it the opening of only 30 of the 200+ Jessops stores as well as a slim down and concentration on market products. The worst thing that can happen to a business is if they spread themselves too thin and no longer specialise – Jessops would do well to avoid this. But sadly it will take more than a rebrand and new product offers to save the high street – online competitors no offer the same products at half the price and can be bought from the comfort of your sofa. Latest statistics show that high street sales are flat lining – so companies need to act fast . A possible solution would be to offer a more integrated service – you can’t physically see the product online – so better integration from shop floor to online browsing could be a possibility. Services such as shop and collect, loyalty discounts and unique customer support may revive a dying trend.
Nevertheless the high street has a battle on its hands. Its great to see that not all hope is lost – and that people still appreciate a good local store. Photography and Jessops won’t be heading off any time soon. I myself find the urge to take photos constantly – as merely a record of my life to look back upon. So as long as the human need to capture and detail life remains – shops such as Jessops will be able to rest in peace.