November 11, 2010: Eastmon Photos, established by Howard Eastwood in 1961 and more recently operated by his son, Hugh Eastwood, is to close its remaining six retail stores in northern NSW.
The stores – the first of which opened in 1977 at the very advent of the minilab era, are in Armidale, Bathurst, Dubbo, Glen Innes, Inverell and Tamworth. Staff were told of the closures last Friday, November 5.
Closures are scheduled early in 2011, and will be completed by the end of February.
Speaking to ABC Tamworth, managing director Hugh Eastwood (pictured above right) attributed the decision to close the stores to the burgeoning online category.
The Eastmon Group will continue to operate the giant Photo Create wholesale fulfilment centre in Glenn Innes and its B2B online operation, Photo Create Business Direct.
‘The partners have, for some time, been looking at decreasing profitability in the retail arm of the business and the trends are such that this would be the last year we would be profitable,’ Eastwood told the ABC.
In a comment which should have resonance with all independent photo retailers, Eastwood said: ‘We’ve watched people stay in this position for too long and get themselves into trouble and, while there’s no financial burden on the Group at this point in time, it’s just a responsible decision based on where the trends are going.
‘There was no option that we could see in our research to justify a retail store front and there’s decreasing number of customers willing to pay for that kind of service.’
Eastwood said that Eastmon won’t be able to find alternative jobs for most of the 30 staff members impacted, with re-employment particularly unlikely for those outside of the Glenn Innes headquarters.
Eastmon, under Howard and Hugh Eastwood, has consistently been seen by its peers and suppliers as one of the best operators in Australian photo retailing.
Howard Eastwood built his first colour processing machine in 1973 in his backyard and was soon wholesale processing to large sections of northern NSW. Howard and his brother Richard together built the world’s first 3-hour processing machine in 1977, according to the company history.
Hugh Eastwood introduced a centrally controlled business model with tight operating process and procedures in the store in the mid-’90s.
Although Fujifilm boss Dave Marshall is generally recognised for promoting ‘multi-kiosking’ , Eastmon says in early 2003 it ‘pioneered and invented the use of multi kiosk at retail as a self serve printing solution for consumers at retail’, and by 2004, every store in the group had eight kiosks operating – well before this was a standard configuration.
COMMENT: When an innovator like Eastmon innovates itself out of retail, it should give the entire industry pause for thought.