Ta Ta Jessops

So it finally happened. The last surving high street photographic retailer bit the dust just after New Year. Jessops is no more, it is an ex-camera shop, it has ceased to be.

Looking at it though, it’s no real surprise. Jessops has been facing some stiff competition from the online retailers for years. But, that’s not the whole story, it’s not just online retailers, it’s good old brick and mortar retailers who just got smarter than Jessops at online trading who have helped drive the nail in this particular coffin.

When I look in my camera bags I can say that at least 70% of my current kit was a Jessops purchase. Some of it bought way back when the internet was but a nipper, and some more recent when the pricing wasn’t too bad or on offer. One of the main reasons for my using Jessops was if I had decided on a new camera body, or lens, I wanted it there and then. Not ordered, paid for and wait for 3 days on a delivery. There and then and that’s where Jessops had a real upper hand on the internet retailing.

There’s no substitute for walking into a shop, handling the camera, testing out that lens to see what works for you. I nearly bought a Nikon D300 but after handling it in store and a D7000 I changed my mind and the D7000 was bought. You simply can’t do that buying online.

So, if this was so great a benefit to Jessops what went wrong?

Quite simply, to me at least, Jessops became skilled in the art of pissing off the customer.

Jessops prices were consistently at the higher end of the market, I think we all accepted that but they were also high as an internet retailer, the one place you MUST be competitive. So how did they get around that? A dual pricing structure. An online price, and an in-store price.

As I found out recently this meant that I could find a new tripod head on Jessops website, £140 in store but only £100 online. Even more, I could order online and pay and collect in-store for £100. Walk in of the street ready to buy and it was £40 more expensive. Would they give you the web price in-store, even if you mentioned it? No.

So, you go home to reserve it online, but that means another trip into town and hey, there’s the internet, might as well just order it and have it delivered. But wait, why use Jessops, they have just hacked me off and there’s a million other retailers out there who haven’t and bang, there’s a lost sale.

They even started advertising cameras at a low price but with a much higher “You pay today” price, the lower price was part of a cashback deal you had to claim. Don’t know about you but if I see a price in big bold type that’s the price I expect to pay there and then, not what I’ll have eventually paid after trying to claim the cashback and waiting on the refund. It smacks of desperation.

So there you have it, high prices, dual pricing structures and false pricing, 3 great reasons not to shop with Jessops.

So, what now for high street photography?

Might it be the rise in the independent retailer? Of course it won’t. Most of them are even more expensive than Jessops. Unless an independent retailer can cater for a niche market such are old or rare kit or simply just cheaper 2nd hand they will also go under eventually. It’s a romantic notion using your local independent photo guy, supporting him to keep a shop open but in reality, he can’t sell to you nearly as cheap and the big online guy can so you won’t buy from him. You might go and look at his stuff but you’ll tell him you need to think about it and then go home and get it online a lot cheaper.

The sad part is, in the quest for the ever better deal we’re all the worse off for it. My other passion is astronomy and here already in Scotland you simply cannot go and see a telescope in a retailer before you buy. There’s not one store of any kind in Scotland with a reasonable selection of scopes from different manufacturers so you buy blind over the net.

My first scope was a monster, way to big, heavy and cumbersome. Had I seen it before I bought I wouldn’t have bought it. So what happened here, I sold it, lost money and bought another blind over the net. Thankfully this one suited me fine but ultimately this scope effectively cost me £100 more after you factor in the money I lost with the unsuitable purchase.

Sure, there are distance selling regulations to protect us but once you’ve got the product, and especially if it’s a big heavy product sending it back isn’t always that straight forward then you you’ve got the wait for the retailer to confirm they have it back and then the wait for a refund. It’s awkward and I suspect it means a lot of people end up keeping stuff rather than go to the hassle of the return.

So, like I’ve said, already with astronomy it’s an online retail world for me, soon the whole photographic world will be the same. Even with HMV gone where really can you go and browse a section of music bigger than the top 40 now? The high street is disappearing fast and I for one hope this online world we’ve all had a part in creating and feeding doesn’t turn around and bite us one day as we’ll have nowhere else to go.

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5 responses

  1. I only bought three things from Jessops: My 5d, which they price-matched against online. And my bags. With the bags, I got the salesman to take all the lenses out of the display case to put them in the bags. I figured he’d earned the 20% uplift over the online price by derisking the purchase for me. I guess there are many customers who do not share my concept of value.

    I disagree on HMV though. “Rack em and stack em” retailers are dead. I can preview albums on Amazon/iTunes in a way I never could in a store. HMV had no scope for value-add in the retail experience.

    Have you been in Debenhams recently? They’re actively encouraging you to wander round the store buying stuff on their mobile app…

    January 21, 2013 at 6:35 pm

  2. It’s a real dilemma. I used Amazon in the UK because they were lower priced and would often deliver within a day or two. But Amazon are at an unfair advantage through their tax fiddles.

    Since I’ve moved to Australia (with no Amazon), I’ve been amazed by the variety of physical shops selling books, cameras, etc. but it costs a bit more.

    January 22, 2013 at 5:55 pm

  3. Melissa

    Hmv isn’t gone yet… most of their stores are still profitable and they’re about to get taken over by Hilco.

    January 22, 2013 at 8:10 pm

  4. Without actually physical stores where we can pick up tangible goods the future will be independent people, like your good self, that review items with balance and candour.

    In the end, and with enough people tapping away at their keyboards, we’ll be able to make an even more informed decision than as if we’d stood there in the shop sweating over the lens.

    The real question is what the hell are we going to do with all these deserted high-streets?!

    January 26, 2013 at 3:52 am

  5. Nice post, although there’s still Calumet, They have multiple stores nationwide and in america. There’s one in leith, But i suppose that isn’t exactly “High Street”

    February 7, 2013 at 12:01 am

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