Dragons’ Den star weighs bids to sell Jessops camera chain

Dragons’ Den star Peter Jones is considering a sale of camera chain Jessops, as he battles to secure the future of the high street stores.

Sources close to the company said Mr Jones – who bought Jessops out of administration in 2013 – had received unsolicited approaches to buy Jessops and is holding early-stage talks with the suitors.

But it is understood he is also continuing to thrash out a rescue deal with landlords after more than a month of discussions to slash rents and potentially shut stores across the 46-strong chain.

It comes after JR Prop Ltd – the leasehold property estate manager – filed a notice of intention to appoint Resolve as administrators last month.

Mr Jones – best known for his role as an investor on the BBC show Dragons’ Den – then secured a two-week extension to the notice, but talks remain ongoing as he looks to secure a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) with landlords and creditors.

While the store estate business is facing an uncertain future, the holding company of the retail operations – Jessops Europe – remains unaffected by the planned administration.

Jessops Europe, which employs around 500 staff in the stores, saw sales slump 11% to £84.7 million in the year to the end of April 2018, though underlying earnings lifted 31% to £1.64 million.

It was bought by Mr Jones and other investors in 2013 after it collapsed into administration, leading to the closure of all its 187 stores and the loss of almost 1,500 jobs.

Mr Jones relaunched Jessops just two months later as part of a £4 million investment, hiring many of the chain’s former staff who lost their jobs.

At the time of the relaunch, Mr Jones said: “I believe Jessops is an iconic British brand which can lead the retail resurgence on Britain’s high streets, powered by new innovations and world-leading, expert staff.

“Image is everything, and even in the mobile and tablet era, there’s no substitute for a quality camera when it comes to taking the perfect picture.”

The firm hit the wall in 2013 after suffering from online competition and a boom in camera phones over recent years, which hit demand for digital cameras.

It had struggled since 2007, when it underwent a major overhaul with a raft of store closures.

The firm began life in 1935 when Frank Jessop opened his first shop in Leicester.

Jessops declined to comment.