The prospects for family portrait specialist Pixifoto, in voluntary administration since last Thursday, appear grim, with the administrator moving to close down all outlets and commence asset sales.
Administrator John Morgan (BCR Advisory ) told ABC News that a preliminary review suggested a downturn in sales has impacted the company’s ability to operate as a going concern.
‘Most people, with technology the way it is now, they can take a pretty good photo at home and so they don’t necessarily need this sort of studio niche,’ said Mr Morgan.
‘And so the customers have just dropped off.’
He says the popularity and quality of digital cameras and smartphones has hurt revenue.
The closure of Pixifoto closely follows the shuttering of 2700 CPI studios across the US earlier this year.
Staff at the Sydney-based group were briefed by senior management during a nationwide phone conference call today (July 29).
Up to 300 employees ‘will face the sack’, according to a News Ltd report, and the administrator has confirmed this will occur by next month. Revenue from assets sales would be used to pay out ‘most’ staff, according to the administrator. However, he said the ultimate settlement with staff will not be finalised for months.
The company has 41 outlets around Australia operating from spaces in Kmart, Target and Myer stores.
The administrators will ‘immediately close the PixiFoto studio business…and ensure the recent sale of the company’s PixiFoto School Photography business that operated in Queensland and New South Wales is completed seamlessly.’
The Pixifoto Schools Photography division operates as a separate business of the parent company, Photo Corporation Australia.
The Pixifoto studio business has been operating since 1971, and since 1990 has been run by Michael Watt and Peter Watt.
A message on the Pixifoto Facebook site assures all customers who have ordered prints that they will be returned to the various studio locations for pick up this week.
Better cameras kill Pixifoto – really?
In an informal address to a PMA group in Melbourne in May, Michael Warshall, managing director of the successful Nulab Group, predicted that PixiFoto would encounter difficulties. He didn’t sheet the blame home to the improved quality of digital cameras, but rather a failure to innovate:
In America (portrait studio operator) CPI just shut down 2700 studios right across the States. That’s what used to record the history of American families for the last 60 to 70 years. What happens now?
The same is happening in Australia – all the Pixies (PixieFoto) and the rest are in deep trouble. They are declining. They haven’t changed. They want to sell the same stuff they sold 10 years ago, even 2 years ago – and that doesn’t cut it.
We have some customers – predominantly women – who have set up new shopping centre operations. Some have put in front-projection units where they can change the backgrounds. Their work is very different, and they are raking it in. Because they are different. Their products are different. They don’t sell the same as everyone else sells.
– Michael Warshall, Nulab
COMMENT: The loss of over 300 good people out of the photographic industry diminishes the community as a whole. Pixifoto must have been one of the largest single employers we had. I was shocked by the news, and by the extent of the job losses – which seem definite. I’m sure all Photo Counter readers will have our Pixifoto colleagues in our thoughts this week.
For an indication of the goodwill which still exists between the staff and their customers, see comments on the Pixifoto Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pixifotoau