Monday, January 14, 2013
Cameras 0, Ukuleles 1 - why Jessops failed
Let's consider the first point. Yes, most people have smart phones with cameras of excellent quality. People take pictures all the time. Yes, sales of digital cameras have fallen by 29% in the last five years (source: Mintel research) to a mere £598 million in 2012. So there's still a market of nearly £600 million for sellers of digital cameras, not to mention the lenses, tripods, memory cards and other accessories. Despite a potential market of nearly a thousand million pounds, Jessops has thrown in the towel.
OK, maybe it was the second reason, online sales. There's no doubt that consumers use retail shops as places to browse and select goods before buying them at lower prices from online retailers. Maybe that's the real reason for Jessop's closure.
Duke of Uke. To no-one's surprise, it sells ukuleles, ukulele music and ukulele accessories. That's about it. It's very easy to find and buy ukuleles cheaper online, yet the shop thrives. Why? It's because of how they treat the customer. I visited the shop with my teenage daughter just before Christmas because she wanted a ukulele as a present. When we arrived, a couple of young women were singing beautifully while a chap behind the counter accompanied them on a large and sonorous uke. We waited until the song was over, applauded, and then sought advice. The staff couldn't have been more helpful. They explained the different types of ukuleles, let us practice with them, and gave us advice on tutorial guides and sheet music. In short, they were brilliant, and gave us a level of service you couldn't get anywhere near on a website.
So back to Jessops. Faced with a shrinking, but still huge, market, and competition based on price, they did nothing. My experience with them was that staff were poorly trained, had little knowledge of what was in the shop ("if it's not on display we haven't got it"), and weren't very skilled at using the cameras they were selling. They did re-launch their customer training program (Jessops Training Academy) in July 2012, but reports from attendees were somewhat mixed. In short, Jessops unlike the Duke of Uke, failed to become the Sultans of SLRs. What a great pity.