Blacks to shutter all 59 photography stores in Canada as of August

TORONTO — Photography chain Blacks is shuttering all of its 59 stores in Canada after nearly 70 years of selling pictures, albums and frames to capture treasured family moments.

Parent company Telus said the closures will take effect Aug. 8 and affect about 485 employees, most of whom work in Ontario.

“Technological innovations have changed the way Canadians take and share photographs, with fewer of us using retail photo outlets,” company spokeswoman Luiza Staniec said in a statement.

“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.”

Bruce Winder, a retail analyst with J.C. Williams Group Ltd., echoed those sentiments, saying he wasn’t surprised by the shutdown.

“They have a fair amount of cameras and that market is in significant decline,” Winder said.

“If you go back 10 years ago, folks bought digital cameras. Now everyone has digital cameras on their smartphones. The market is polarized and you’re either a professional camera enthusiast and you go to Henry’s or you don’t and you use your cellphone like 99 per cent of the other people.”

Winder said when Telus Corp (TSX:T) bought Blacks in September 2009 for $28 million from ReichmannHauer Capital Partners, it was simply to add another distribution channel for the telecom giant. He said Telus hedged its bets on a bricks-and-mortar approach just in case it was a lucrative market. It obviously wasn’t, he said.

“Telus is so big that they can certainly absorb this,” he said.

Staniec, the Blacks spokeswoman, said an unspecified number of the laid-off employees will be offered jobs at Telus or Koodo head offices, as well as at retail outlets or call centres, while others would be offered a “transition package.”

Headquartered in Toronto, Blacks was founded in 1930 and sold appliances. Its first speciality camera store opened in 1948.

Since then, it has changed hands several times.

In July 1993, Fuji Photo Film Canada purchased Blacks and its 210 stores for $65 million from Scott’s Hospitality, which was primarily a food business.

ReichmannHauer Capital Partners had purchased the chain in 2007 for an undisclosed price before selling it to Telus.

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said Blacks had been selling pictures, albums and frames for 85 years.