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Despite a high street slump and economic uncertainty, Jessops is investing in new store openings and refurbishments, with £1.8 million spent on “intelligent improvements” in the last 12 months. Peter Jones of Dragons’ Den fame is a major investor in Jessops, and recently opened a new concept store at 145 Oxford Street in London. As well as selling cameras and printing images, a key strategy for 2019 is the provision of creativity corners, where Jessops customers can make photo gifts, discover scrapbooking and get other creative ideas from specialist staff called ‘Photosmiths.’

“People ask me, what is the reason for investing right now, but actually, retail’s been tough for quite a few years,” Jones told AP during an exclusive interview. “We have spent six months looking how to bring more people in store and engage more with the community, which leads to more sales, and there’s been a 25% uplift in store activity. Everything used to be behind glass screens, but when I got involved in 2013, I was clear I wanted people to be able to touch and feel what we sell.”

As an entrepreneur with an eye on costs, isn’t it expensive to invest more in specialist staff? “Doing a store makeover is never cheap and although we have only 60 stores it is still expensive. People costs are always the largest investment. But it’s worth it, and I can’t think of another retailer who has so many people working for it who really want to come to work, combining their passion and their day job.”

The thinking behind the new creativity corners is to encourage smartphones users in particular to do more with their images. “Billions of images never see light of day,” notes Jones. “Jessops alone won’t change this but we can embrace it. Come in with your smartphone pictures and engage with us, get your pictures out on to pillows or photos books or whatever, and if you would like to take your camera experience more seriously, there no better place to go and buy.”

As part of the new look, Jones points to a more open and airy layout, with a fresh white fascia. The company is also expanding the range of courses at the Jessops Academy and reaching out to camera clubs. “Thousands of people have studied with the Academy so we are pushing it as hard as we can – nobody wants to take a crap image. We have such a great brand identity, people from 12-80 have heard of Jessops. The changes we’ve made will be rolled out nationally over the next 18 months, so it’s an exciting time”