Camera specialist retailer Jessops is targeting the selfie-generation with new-style stores that promote instant photo gifts.
Five years after being rescued from administration by Dragon’s Den panellist Peter Jones, Jessops now has 58 outlets including 11 in Sainsbury’s stores.
Sales rose 24% to nearly £100m in the year to April 2017. While the company slipped to a pretax loss of £764,875, this was largely because of the setup of a new venture to run a chain of stores for Samsung. Jessops expect to return to profit this year.
Sales of more expensive high-spec cameras are rising by a few percent a year, but the market for photo-print gifts, such as posters, printed canvases or coasters, is growing much faster – forecast to be nearly 40% between now and 2020.
In a bid to grab a greater share of that market, a handful of Jessops stores have introduced specialist printing machines and trained staff who can produce in less than an hour canvas prints, posters and “shuffle” photos which combine multiple pictures on one print so that they can be slipped straight into a montage frame.
Speaking at a new-style store in Bromley, Neil Old, chief executive of Jessops, said he expected to have converted 12 shops by mid-summer and potentially half the chain in the next 12 months.
He still wants to serve keen hobbyists who are looking for zoom lenses and other kit, but is broadening Jessops’s appeal to enable more casual photographers to put their work on display.
“Over the last 10 years everyone has been taking pictures on their smartphones and it’s becoming increasingly clear customers want to do something with those photos.”
The trend echoes the renaissance of other traditional media, such as vinyl records and physical books, in recent years.
“People do want physical evidence of what they have bought or done,” said Old.
While the likes of Photobox, Notonthehighstreet and Snappy Snaps all offer personalised photo gifts, none of them do so in such a short timeframe. Only the latter has a widespread high-street presence while Boots shut 220 of its 320 photo processing labs last year, creating more space in the market.
Old said: “For any retailer to succeed on the high street you need to have an experience, good staff and something you are never going to get on the internet.”