The future is looking bright for city centre's last camera specialist
KNOWLEDGE of what customers want combined with a high street and online presence is pointing towards a bright future for Hull city centre's last independent photographic shop.
Hilton Photographic has been trading in the city for more than 25 years.
Beginning life in Ferensway, the business relocated to Prospect Street in 2009.
Competition from the internet and rising high street rents has seen a number of retailers go to the wall in the past year, including national photographic chains such as Jessops and Jacobs.
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However, Graham Drewery, owner of Hilton Photographic, said the demise of such names could bring big benefits – not just for his business but for his customers as well.
He said: "Since Jacobs and then Jessops went, we are the only photographic specialists left on the high street.
"We've noticed an increase in trade since they disappeared and this has been compounded by stores such as Comet closing.
"Don't get me wrong, it is tough out there for everyone, including ourselves, but we have stood the test of time."
Earlier this month, Jessops began closing its 187-strong store network, including shops in Beverley and Hull.
Just seven months previously, Jacobs in Hull closed its doors after the national photographic chain also went into administration.
A lack of online presence has been blamed for the demise of Comet in particular, with retail analysts pointing out the chain only began a determined focus on its website last year.
In contrast, Hilton Photographic has been complementing its high street offer with its website for more than 13 years.
"I took over the business almost 14 years ago, and we have been actively promoting the website ever since," said Graham, who runs the store with his brother and store manager, Chris.
"We have a good reputation and the website is supported by Sound Solutions in Livingstone Road, Hessle, so we have good support from a local business.
"We are also getting involved with Twitter and have an eBay shop, all of which add to our store in Paragon Street."
Graham said he hoped the downfall of big-name retailers would encourage suppliers to renegotiate costs with smaller independents, which in turn would enable them to pass on the savings to customers while preserving shops on the high street.
He said: "One of the biggest issues we face is there are no margins on the products we sell. Larger stores such as Comet would price us out and sell products at a loss, and we cannot compete with that.
"I'd love to be able to sell my customer £10 notes for £9 but it is impossible, and a bizarre situation to be in. We wouldn't survive."
In addition to cameras and camera equipment, Hilton sells a range of accessories, and Graham said this, along with the store's expert knowledge, was seeing an increasing stream of customers head to the store.
"People still come in to buy cameras and for advice, and when they do, they tend to pick up a memory card or other accessories.
"At the end of the day, you can't put a price on good service and knowledge."