Camera chain Jessops owed £70 million when it collapsed
Camera chain Jessops owed £70 million when it collapsed last month, it has emerged.
The full extent of the company's financial problems was made public for the first time yesterday.
The 78-year-old Leicester business closed all 187 of its stores and axed about 1,500 jobs when it plunged into administration five weeks ago.
A report by the company's directors shows the group owed £42 million to about 4,000 creditors, including hundreds of thousands of pounds to more than 1,000 customers.
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It is understood the creditors are likely to get only a small amount, if any, of the money back.
Many of these people had ordered products from shops or via the internet, but never received them.
Former staff are owed £1.3 million, as are HM Revenue and Customs.
The creditors also include small businesses who had supplied the stores, cleaning firms and landlords.
The report, submitted to Companies' House by administrator PricewaterhouseCoopers, said another £28 million was owed to HSBC bank, which had effectively controlled the business since 2009.
The documents showed that Jessops had assets of just £3.4 million when it went under, as well as revealing more than £800,000 worth of gift cards were still to be used before the firm's collapse.
The administrators have blamed tough competition from supermarkets and online retailers for the group's demise.
Martin Traynor, chief executive of Leicestershire Chamber of Commerce, said: "This is obviously a very sad state of affairs. It seems like ordinary customers and small suppliers will lose out."
Yesterday's report comes amid speculation that the Jessops name could make a return to the high street after it was bought by a group of business people headed by Dragons' Den star Peter Jones.
It has been suggested that Mr Jones and others are looking at reopening some branches, although Mr Jones has made no comment.
The group's head office in Braunstone Frith still employs about 60 staff, who could help with any reopenings.
The business was founded by Frank Jessop in 1935, in a store in Southgate Street, Leicester.
Frank's son, Alan, sold the firm in 1996 to the company's management.
Speaking yesterday, Alan, 73, said he hoped the Jessops name would reappear on the high street soon.
"It's particularly sad for the loyal staff, some of whom were there when I was at the company," he said.
"With hindsight, the business got too big. Having just under 190 stores, which they did when they folded, was too many.
"I'd like to see Jessops once again offering good customer advice and a range of photographic equipment.
"Of course, there would probably be less shops than before – between 30 and 50 – but no more than that."