One of Australia’s long-established independent photo specialists, Gerry Gibbs Camera House, Cannington, WA, was placed in voluntary liquidation today (July 28), having closed its doors and website earlier in the week.
‘In the long run the decision really wasn’t in our hands – it was a mater of statutory legal requirements,’ managing director, Murray Gibbs, wrote to PhotoCounter, declining to make any further comment through the liquidation period. The appointed liquidator is small Perth-based insolvency specialist Melson Robson (fitsolutions.com.au/)
The online Gerry Gibbs Camera Warehouse business is also shut down, with a message on the homepage saying it is undergoing maintenance.
It’s understood a range of photographic distributors have a considerable exposure to the insolvency, and there is no indication at this stage what return creditors might hope for.
Newly-appointed Camera House general manager Charles Davey told PhotoCounter he didn’t know whether the group had a large exposure to the insolvency. ‘I hope not,’ he said. ‘We are working closely with the liquidator on the situation.’
The Gerry Gibbs decline seems to follow the pattern established in two other high-profile store closures within the ranks of Camera House – Camera Action in Melbourne and Foto Riesel in Sydney: A business encountering trading difficulties attempts to trade its way back to a more solvent situation, but is hamstrung by suppliers worried about providing further stock to the troubled retailer on credit terms. Generating cash to pay for stock becomes increasingly challenging, stock levels fall, and the unhappy outcome becomes almost self-fulfilling.
Gerry Gibbs Camera’s was founded in March 1972 (as Carousel Photographic) in the then new Carousel Regional Shopping Centre in Cannington WA, as a section of Gerry’s Carousel Pharmacy. Cannington is a suburb to the south west of Perth.
In 1976 the business moved to a separate location in the Carousel Centre and later joined Camera House. In 1997 it moved out of the shopping mall to the large and prominent Cecil Street location. Murray Gibbs took over the business from his father, Gerry Gibbs in 2004.
While it is unconfirmed, several industry sources have told PhotoCounter that at least one east coast-based photo retailer had been in discussions to acquire the business prior to the administrators being brought in.
The Camera House group has been shrinking in recent years – down from 78 member stores in 2013 to just 62 with the closure of the Cannington outlet this week. That represents a 20 percent reduction in around three years. This has increased the relative significance of ‘affiliates’ such as the Paxton stores in Sydney which are customers of Camera House as a distributor, but aren’t required to carry Camera House branding or comply to other franchise requirements.
Some industry insiders argue that affiliate stores enjoy a better deal than Camera House members, as the don’t have to take allocated stock, use or adhere to catalogue pricing, or contribute to other costs of being in Camera House, yet they ‘still enjoy the fruits of the distribution model and pick the eyes out of the best CH buys,’ leading to a ‘tail wagging the dog’ situation.