Memories of Jessops of Leicester UK.

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philm5d Senior Member • Posts: 1,129
Memories of Jessops of Leicester UK.
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Anyone remember the start of Jessops of Leicester UK or more precisely the start of their expansion in 1970s?

I was 19 at the time in the early 1970s and Jessops was a revelation in discounted "Cash and Carry" for the photographer. There had previously been a Mail Order camera gear industry run by the likes of RG Lewis, Greens, Wallace-Heaton staffed by knowledgable old boys in suits. Prices were all around RRP (Recommended Retail Price in the UK), although discounts could be had if one perused the weekly full page ads. in the likes of Amateur Photographer magazine. In those days it was send a cheque and wait a couple of weeks to receive your new gear.

As an aside and at around the same time, Dixons Camera Centres were beginning to spread however they dealt in low end consumer photography, mainly Zenits, Prakticas, and own-brands such as Prinz. Unlike Jessops they also sold discount low end electrical goods, TVs, hi-fi and the like. Famously they were staffed by less- than-knowledgable younger people driven only by sales figures (I once heard a Dixons assistant tell a customer " don't worry,this lens has BUILT-IN depth of field" in response to a query - circa 1973).

Jessops started up originally in the 1930s and evolved to trade in Mail Order with just one retail outlet in Leicester and I recall driving 200 miles to buy two Soligor lenses for £35 each which were probably nearly half the RRP at the time. The shop was a hole-in-the wall type place and I stood in line with 20 or so others outside in the rain. Once inside the tiny shop it was cash-only and you were handed a box, or in my case two boxes and bid goodbye. I made a fuss and insisted on opening them to at least make sure there were actually lenses inside, much to the annoyance of staff.

Jessops expanded in Leicester and eventually moved to a new 20,000 sq ft site on Hinckley Road in Leicester, which was named as the largest photography store in the world by Guinness World Records The Jessops price list was famous and was a huge folded printed paper printed in a tiny web offset font with thousands of items and which doubled as a target for testing lenses.In later years Jessops expanded into the high street with almost 200 shopfront stores and had developed a more conventional "handle the goods" selling style

Then in 2002, a Dutch bank bought Jessops for £116 million.

But by the middle of the decade, the company began to struggle to compete when other high street and internet competitors entered the market. The share price halved in the mid 2000s and there were store closures galore. The Company was rescued by an investment group and a tangle of complex financial deals. Jessops still exists today and is re-opening stores on major city sites in the UK.

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