Blacks Photography to close all outlets by August
Published Tuesday, June 9, 2015 11:55AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, June 9, 2015 6:46PM EDT
After almost 70 years in Canada, the Blacks Photography chain is folding because the retailer was unable to adapt to a rapidly changing photography market.
All 59 Blacks stores will close August 8, affecting a total of 485 employees, most of them in Ontario.
Some workers will be offered new positions at parent company Telus, in the company head office, or at Telus or Koodo retail outlets or call centres. Others will receive a “transition package.”
Blacks, which was bought by Telus in 2009, struggled to adapt to the changing photography retail landscape, as fewer consumers printed photos in favour of sharing them online through social media.
The chain attempted to adapt to market changes by launching smaller retail stores in 2014 focusing on digital prints and photo gifts. It also invested in its website and smartphone app.
But the company said it was unable to achieve growth.
“Despite the positive momentum and financial improvements our BLACKS team has delivered over the last year, we have been unable to realize profitable growth and it would take considerable investment to adapt BLACKS to ongoing change,” the company said in a statement Tuesday.
Retail analyst Doug Stephens told CTV News Channel that Canadians are taking more photos than ever, but few are buying the types of cameras Blacks sells.
“It’s all happening on the smartphone and there’s no revenue in that for a company like Blacks,” he said.
Stephens said the company failed to respond quickly enough to the “precipitously dropping” photography market, where there are powerful new competitors like Amazon.
“They really had to make some bold moves in one direction or another,” Stephens said. “Either (by going) online in a big way or creating a really great experiential camera store.
“They did neither.”
Brothers William and Bob Black opened their first camera store in Toronto in the 1940s and named it “Eddie Black’s Cameras,” after their father.
They grew the camera chain to 100 outlets and in 1977, revolutionized the photo print industry when they became the first retailer to offer larger 4x6 prints, instead of the standard 3.5x5. The new print size immediately caught on with consumers, forcing Blacks’ competitors to eventually increase their print size as well.
Blacks was sold in 1985 for $100 million to Scott's Hospitality Inc. In 1993, Fuji Film bought the chain’s 210 stores for $65 million, before selling the company to Telus in 2009 for approximately $28 million.