Dear Dragon: Entrepreneurs' advice for new Jessops owner Peter Jones

Former editor, BusinessZone
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As Dragons' Den judge Peter Jones re-opens Jessops, the photography retailer he bought after it collapsed last year, other entrepreneurs offer him advice.

Simon Hill, founder, Wazoku:

"It is too simplistic to say that Jessops ran into difficulties because it didn’t properly address the digital market. The real reason it failed was a lack of innovation and realising way too late the game was up – the same could be said for fellow troubled retailers HMV and Blockbuster.

"Large retail outlets have legacy costs and outdated organisational structures so modernising  and finding a role for high street retail in 2013 has to be the main challenge for Peter Jones. He won’t be able to compete on price with online photo services, so needs to unearth some other innovation, whether that is offering a new service, a more convenient method payment, restructuring the supply chain or something else entirely. One thing is certain – if Jones succeeds it will be one of his greatest business achievements."

Guy Mucklow, CEO, Postcode Anywhere:

"Jessops can no longer afford to rely solely on shoppers buying from their physical store. A successful offering is likely to see them expanding and strengthening their traditional offering into a multichannel approach, incorporating both mobile and social commerce in order to provide new avenues to convert sales, while also benefiting from the competitive pricing of ‘click and collect’. It’s not a case of ‘either /or’ when it comes to physical stores and ecommerce. Jessops needs to ensure that if people go into their stores and leave with the intention of buying online, the online store is at the forefront of everywhere they look.

"There's no doubt that technology is the key driver for change in the retail market; from self-service checkouts in a local supermarket, through to being able to ‘try on’ jewellery using an augmented reality mobile application. But none of this matters without a well-placed and user friendly ecommerce site. This will be the key to Jessops' future success. Online should work in harmony with the high street store – not hinder it."

Jan Shure, co-founder,

"While we applaud Peter Jones' confidence in the high street and his new brand, as an online shopping portal – albeit in a very different field – we believe he has got the process the wrong way round.

"He should be capitalising on the expertise to be found in Jessops branches by encouraging consumers to visit the shop to consult with the specialists. They should then be able to order online while in the shop, and have their merchandise delivered to their home, perhaps with incentives such as free delivery and a discount for ordering there and then. In failing to take this course, we believe consumers will use the Jessops expertise and then go home and buy from the cheapest online retailer, thus perpetuating the situation which led to Jessops failure."

Martin Philpott, head of retail, IMGROUP:

"The low end camera market is shrinking dramatically. Most people have good quality cameras in their smartphones now and are just not spending money on £100-£200 cameras anymore. Jessops needs to target the higher end market with cash to spare, who will spend £500 and above on a camera. In order to do this effectively they need to employ camera experts who know about photography and offer excellent customer service, looking to John Lewis as a great example.

"'Showrooming' is a particularly damaging retail trend which Peter Jones will need to address. This is when a customer enters an offline retailer, gets advice from a sales assistant and then goes home and buys the product at a lower cost online. In the U.S shops have actually started charging a small fee to offer this advice which can then be reclaimed when you purchase the product from them.

"Finally, Peter Jones needs to open less stores, perhaps a flagship store in each major city centre and invest heavily in their online business. In the past, Jessops has offered virtually no multi channel retail experience. They need to invest in building the connection between their offline and online businesses. The future lies in a combination of these approaches – clicks and bricks need to work together in today's challenging retail environment."


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Adding to Martin camera experts... Never saw Jessops capitalise on their staffs "in store expertise". I can think of many ways they could pick up sales, re motivate their staff, build customer loyalty... Good luck to PJ & Jessops.

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Its years since I last went into a Jessops store to purchse a camera - and very much doubt I will need to again in the near future, as I am comfortable buying online for my own business needs.  However am sure a physaical store will benefit those who lack experience IF they are being assisted by others with more photography skills than sales skills. Maybe they will work in certain locations where there is easy access to free or low cost parking, and aim for the middle market who need to have a hands on experience before choosing what to buy. Having something instantly, rather than having to wait will still have appeal, if there is a sense of excitement and love.

Enthusuastic and passionate staff might be the key then...