It began, 1946, as “Eddie Black’s Cameras”, on St. Clair Avenue in Toronto. But Blacks Photography, despite its homespun history, hadn’t been a family business in decades.
Today, we learned Blacks will no longer exist, a victim of the smartphone and the Instagrams and SnapChats that help drive their sales.
Telus, which acquired Black’s in 2009 (and promptly removed its apostrophe), says it will shutter the remaining 58 Blacks stores by August, leaving 485 people without jobs. Telus says it will try to find positions for them elsewhere.
“Technological innovations have changed the way Canadians take and share photographs, with fewer of us using retail photo outlets,” said Telus spokesperson Luiza Staniec today. “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.”
The technological innovations Telus mentions have torn through photography shops more viciously, perhaps, than any other business. In 1998, there were more than three thousand one-hour photo stores in the United States. As of this past April there were just 190. The 94 per cent death rate topped newstands and even video rental stores over the same period.
The final blow for Black’s comes after numerous transactions in which one party was passing off a dwindling commodity to another, usually for a much lower price. The founders sold the firm for $100-million to Scott’s Hospitality, who, eight years later sold the 210 strong chain to Fuji Film. In 2007, ReichmannHauer Capital Partners bought Black’s, which now consisted of just 116 stores. By the time Telus bought Black’s in 2009, the asking price was just $28-million.
Below: A 1983 commercial for Black”s Photography featuring Martin Short…