Plymouth staff lose jobs hours after being told they were safe
THE Jessops photography store in the city centre has closed for good with the loss of nine jobs – despite staff having been reassured the chain was saveable.
Workers were stunned when administrators told them at 4pm yesterday to close the outlet immediately and that they would all be made redundant alongside 1,370 of their colleagues nationally.
It is understood the chain's staff had been told earlier in the day that their jobs were safe.
But administrators at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) closed all 187 stores at the close of trading yesterday with Rob Hunt, joint administrator and partner PwC, saying: "This is an extremely sad day for Jessops and its employees."
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It is understood some staff will be working at stores today clearing up and packaging unsold goods.
Paul Hopkins, assistant manager at the Plymouth branch, in lower Cornwall Street, said he was unable to discuss the closure with The Herald, but paid tribute to his colleagues.
"It's been a pleasure to work with them for the past three years," he said. "I'll miss them, they're my friends."
The Jessops chain became the first high-profile retail casualty of 2013 when it entered administration on Wednesday.
PwC said the company's core market had seen a significant decline in 2012 and forecasts for 2013 indicated this would continue.
It had suffered from online and supermarket competition and a boom in camera phones, in recent years, hitting demand for digital cameras.
In addition, sales were said to have slumped in the run up to Christmas as a result of falling consumer confidence.
The administrators said further job losses are likely at the group's head office in Leicester.
The loss of the Plymouth branch is another blow for the city centre, already reeling from a raft of store closures, particularly in the West End.
These have included Blacks, JJB Sport, Woolworths, Officers Club, Game, Hawkins Bazaar, Derrys, and TJ Hughes, among others.
Just last month, electrical retailer Comet, which also had an outlet at the lower end of the city centre, folded nationally shutting its stores.
The job losses also come on top of the 25 redundancies made at the Hoe's Astor Hotel when it went into administration and closed this month.
Jessops rapid folding was exacerbated by suppliers who squeezed credit in the wake of Comet's closure.
Directors and the HSBC bank, which took control of the chain in 2009 in a debt-for-equity swap, failed to strike a deal with those suppliers.
Jessops is estimated to have debts of £60million, half of which was owed to the bank.
The photographic chain also pumped millions of pounds into a store revamp project but it failed to increase sales last year.
However, Jessops' pension scheme members are protected because the scheme was adopted by the Government's Pension Protection Fund in 2009.
MrHunt said talks to save the chain failed and added: "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 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 [on Friday].
"Regrettably, this will result in around 1,370 job losses across the stores with further job losses likely, in due course, at the head office in Leicester.
"The stock will be collected over the coming days and returned to a central warehouse.
"It will be returned to suppliers if they are entitled to it.
"As a consequence of the closure, Jessops is no longer able to accept returned products from customers.
"We are very grateful for the support we have received since our appointment and we will continue to ensure that employees are paid as they assist us during the closure."