Workers facing jobs misery as Leicester firm Jessops closes all of its 187 stores
One of Leicester's most famous companies, Jessops, has closed all of its 187 stores with the loss of 1,370 jobs after administrators said the troubled camera chain could not be saved.
Yesterday's announcement came on a black day for Leicestershire, as it emerged 420 jobs faced the axe at the Waitrose distribution centre in Bardon, and the county council said it was looking to shed 1,100 of its posts over the next four years.
The news about Jessops came as a shock to both shoppers and business leaders, who had speculated that some stores would stay open.
It brought an end to 78 years of trading for the Leicester group, and means about 150 jobs are set to go at its headquarters in Scudamore Road, Braunstone Frith, which will close in the next few days.
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Yesterday's job cuts include 27 posts at stores in Gallowtree Gate, Leicester, and Cattle Market, Loughborough.
The rest of the jobs are at shops around the UK.
Administrators from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) were brought in on Wednesday to see if the struggling business had a future, but they concluded it did not after finding a "significant" drop in trade in recent months had caused major financial problems.
Martin Traynor, chief executive of Leicestershire Chamber of Commerce, said: "Obviously, it's a huge shock and a bitter blow for Leicestershire, but clearly the state of the finances of the business have meant that PwC have had to act quickly in order to protect the interests of creditors.
"January and February are particularly quiet trading months for retail and, with the position as it was for Jessops, things could only get worse."
Professor Jim Saker, retail lecturer at Loughborough University, said the firm had been caught between trying to be a high street chain and a specialist camera supplier.
"This is basically a result of them losing the cheaper end of their market to the internet and supermarkets and the business being too big to survive as a specialist camera outlet," he said.
The administrators said that the biggest shareholder, HSBC, had put in extra funding to Jessops, but the group had been hit by a "credit squeeze" by suppliers.
It has debts of about £28 million.
Speaking yesterday, Edward Williams, joint administrator and partner at PwC, said: "Since my appointment, we have reviewed the position of the business and held extensive discussions with suppliers around their support for ongoing trading.
"It is apparent that we cannot continue to trade and, as a result, we have had to make the difficult decision to begin the closure of all 187 Jessops stores at the close of business today. This is an extremely sad day for Jessops and its employees."
Earlier this week, former Jessops executive chairman David Adams said he made a bid to save the business last summer but it was rejected by HSBC, which has controlled the company since 2009. It took a 47 per cent stake in the business after securing a deal to reduce Jessops' huge debts.
The company grew to about 300 stores after floating on the London Stock Exchange in 2004, when it was valued at £160 million.
However, demand for specialist knowledge about digital photography waned and it was forced to shut more than 100 of its stores.
It had a turnover of £236 million in the year to December 31, which had fallen from the £304 million it turned over two years previously.
Jessops was founded in Leicester in 1935 by Frank Jessop after he set up a store in Newarke Street.