Poor service killed Jessops, not the internet

Ewen Rankin
11 Jan 2013
Olympus E-P3

Jessops has announced the closure of all of its stores. The story on administrator PriceWaterhouseCoopers’ website points to obvious factors such as competition from the internet and supermarkets, and the fact that it has been in financial trouble before. But there is another story and it’s the one told by the consumers.

I am a professional photographer and, as such, walking into high street photographic stores used to mean receiving good advice from like-minded and competent individuals who were not trying to “pull any wool”. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case, and online retailers or specialist stores are the only places where I feel that the technical support actually has something to offer above and beyond my knowledge.

Aside from technical competence, I really want to see a company that is hungry to please me as a consumer and keen to offer something extra on delivery, and perhaps even bail me out when I need urgent help.

Jessops' reputation as a purveyor of poor camera advice preceded it

On more than one occasion, when at a customer’s premises for the week, I’ve found myself in need of a delivery. Decent online retailers such as those mentioned have stepped up to the mark and delivered products because they have taken the time to recognise that I am a professional and likely to be at other sites when I need support. Jessops have never given me any such confidence or support, and even failed to sell me a camera that was in stock whilst I was stood in the store!

Three weeks ago, I had the need to shoot video for a customer in a very dimly lit environment and wanted to purchase a Canon 6D. I was working in London and thought my best chance would be to try Jessops’ Oxford Street store. On entering the store with £1,700 ready in hand, I found the 6D, thanks to the help of the Nikon rep, and then looked for a Jessops’ member of staff. I saw four by the door but went back to the guy in the Nikon shirt thinking he could help. He did. He went and spoke to the Jessops’ staff.

None of them moved and they carried on with their conversation. I waited about five minutes then asked the Nikon guy: “Did you ask anyone to help me?” He said he did but that he was employed by Nikon and not Jessops, but would go over and try again.

This time a young girl came over and asked me what I wanted. “Canon 6D, please, body only”.

“What memory did you want it to have?”

I did have a fleeting thought that Apple had got under the Jessops skin and was trying to sell me a RAM add-on, but then realised she meant a memory card.

“It doesn’t come with any memory,” I stated, but she then informed me that I wouldn’t be able to take pictures without a memory and proceeded to try and sell me an SD Card.

“OK, I just want the body, thanks.”

Great! I was going to get my camera. However, she went back to the conversation with her colleagues for a further three minutes. Finally, she went to the right side of the shop and disappeared… reappearing two minutes later with nothing in her hands, rejoining the conversation with her three colleagues. I was aghast!

I then spoke to the Nikon rep and explained what had transpired and he offered to seek out the manager for me. I declined, as the girl once again disappeared to the opposite side of the shop.

I gave up and left the shop. In the near half an hour I had been in the store the only person who had tried to sell me a Canon 6D was the guy being paid by Nikon.

That’s why Jessops is in administration. Not the internet. Not the supermarkets.

In the hours after Jessops went into administration, the overwhelming comment from the Twitter followers I saw was “no loss then” and comments that were even more derogatory. Other retailers were attempting to console Jessops on Twitter, but the vast majority of the comments I witnessed weren’t bothered.

The internet was once primarily a place to buy the stuff you saw in the stores more cheaply, but that isn’t the case anymore. Consumers are more savvy. They read reviews online and often purchase sight-unseen for consumer electronics, safe in the knowledge that online regulation protects them heavily.

“The Amazon Effect” is still being mentioned in some tweets but the centre of that effect is good customer service and reliability. Jessops' reputation as a purveyor of poor camera advice preceded it.

The demise of Jessops is evolutionary rather than the pure influence of the internet and the current economic climate. I fundamentally believe that innovators and those focused on customer services and the consumer will survive.

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