| LONDON, March 28
LONDON, March 28 Britain's squeezed high street
will receive a much-needed boost on Thursday when camera
specialist Jessops is brought back to life by a well-known
entrepreneur less than three months after its collapse.
Peter Jones, whose investments span the food, entertainment
and media sectors, will reopen six Jessops stores this week,
with up to 30 more opening next month.
The new operation is a far cry from its previous life - a
business of 187 stores and more than 1,400 staff, which slammed
shut in January after succumbing to declining markets and online
competition that has forced fellow British retailers such as
Comet and HMV onto the rocks.
In its new, debt-free guise the business will be more
competitive on price in the low-margin digital camera market,
Jones said, tackling online rivals such as Amazon while
also pushing for a bigger share of the high-end camera market.
"We're not going to be coming back into the high street and
going back to 200 stores again; those days are over," Jones
said. "I don't believe we'll have over 50 stores unless we start
to go into Europe, which I wouldn't rule out."
Jones, who becomes chief executive and chairman of Jessops,
paid 5 million pounds ($7.6 million) in January to buy the
brand, website and assets from administrators.
He expects to invest up to 5 million pounds more this year
on advertising and stores. It is forecasting sales of over 80
million pounds in its first year.
As well as competing on price, Jones said he hopes Jessops'
online business, improved customer service, a collect-at-store
offering and in-store photo printing kiosks would win back
All manufacturers are on board and in store, he added.
The return of Jessops comes after DVD and games
rental company Blockbuster was sold by administrators to
restructuring specialist Gordon Brothers Europe on Saturday and
will be watched with interest by businesses struggling under the
weight of large store portfolios at a time when sales are
Jones, well known in Britain as an investor in television
show Dragons' Den, said that he intends to stay at the helm of
Jessops for the foreseeable future, pending his performance.
"If I realise that I'm not any good at it, then I will bring
in someone who is better," he said.