AROUND 2,000 jobs at the camera chain Jessops are under threat after the group collapsed into administration today.
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has been appointed to the group, which is Britain’s only specialist nationwide camera retailer, with nearly 200 stores.
It marks the first high-profile retail collapse of 2013 and comes soon after consumer electricals chain Comet hit the wall, sparking more than 6,000 job losses.
Jessops, which has its headquarters in Leicester, has suffered in recent years from online competition and the boom in camera phones, which has hit demand for digital cameras.
Jessops has branches in Harrogate, York Bradford, Beverley, Leeds, Doncaster, Hull Scarborough, Halifax and Huddersfield.
Administrator Rob Hunt said PwC was holding discussions with stakeholders to see if the business could be preserved.
He said: “Trading in the stores is hoped to continue today, but is critically dependent on these ongoing discussions. However, in the current economic climate, it is inevitable that there will be store closures.”
PwC said the company’s core market had seen a “significant decline” in 2012 and its position had “deteriorated” in the run-up to Christmas, as a result of reducing confidence in UK retail.
Forecasts for 2013 indicated the decline would continue, PwC added.
PwC said extra funding was made available to the company, but Jessops did not generate the profits it had planned over Christmas.
Mr Hunt said discussions to raise additional financial support for the company had been held between the directors, lenders and suppliers over the last few days.
But the directors had appointed administrators in light of “irreconcilable differences”.
PwC said Jessops was not in a position to honour customer vouchers at present, and it would also not accept returned goods.
It underwent a major overhaul in 2007 and a swathe of store closures, but came close to collapse two years later before being rescued by its main lender HSBC in a controversial debt-for-equity swap that saw it taken off the stock market.
The bank took a 50% stake in the business in return for writing off £34 million of loans.
There was speculation last year that suppliers such as Canon were considering injecting cash into Jessops to help prop the business up, but no deal materialised.
The group last year also suffered the loss of its chief executive Trevor Moore, who left to head up HMV, as well as its chairman David Adams.
Martyn Everett was then appointed as chairman and Neil Old was promoted to lead the business as chief operating officer.
The firm began life in 1935 when Frank Jessop opened his first shop in Leicester.