Olan Mills goes bankrupt


Just heard a disturbing piece of news, which was confirmed by the Olan Mills website yesterday: Olan Mills has gone into administration, effective immediately.

According to my source, the UK chain has tried to sell its business for a while, unsuccessfully. The staff have been told they will not be paid for this month, and the area managers have been told to lock up the stores and go home. There have been reports of some store employees taking equipment home (cameras, computers, studio lights, etc), holding it as ‘hostage’ against unpaid wages.

Can anyone shed any light on if this affects the US company as well? It’d be rather surprising to see one of the most famous portrait studio chains go tits-up…


Is the closure of Olan Mills affecting you?

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When I posted this blog story the first time around, there was no news about this on Google News or anywhere else, but the UK website posted the following:

Olan Mills Holdings Ltd / Olan Mills Ltd (both in administration) (“the Companies”)

Richard Philpott and Myles Halley both of KPMG LLP were appointed in the High Court as Joint Administrators to the Companies on Thursday 14 December 2006.

Following an initial review of the business and its finances, the administrators regret to inform you that the Companies are unfortunately no longer able to continue trading. All stores have now closed and we are unable to fulfil any outstanding orders or appointments.

The administrators are also unable to make any refunds of monies paid. If you are owed money by either of the companies you will need to register your claim by writing to the administrators at 2 Cornwall Street, Birmingham, B3 2DL giving details of the amount you have paid.

At this stage we do not anticipate that any funds will be available to enable a distribution to unsecured creditors.

It is obviously a worrying situation, because Olan Mills was a major employer in the photography sector in the UK. It is possible to argue that the quality or type of work they were delivering was a bit on the ‘conveyor-belt’ side, but ultimately, this item of news about people and their jobs…

So, what do you guys think that the closure of Olan Mills is going to mean for photographers? Will there suddenly be a lot of portrait photographers looking for jobs — which is bad for the industry as a whole, because employers can get away with paying even less to their photographers? Will this closure be the forewarning of the closure of other large chains? What can we, as photographers, do to help each other?

Sadly, I don’t have any of the answers – several of my close friends were affected by the closure, and they are facing a particularly depressing Christmas this year, with no money and no jobs to go to in the new year. My condolences to all who are affected, and the warmest wishes of a healthy rebound in 2007. Just don’t give up hope.

Finally – what do you make of all this? The comments that have been coming in have been insightful and heartfelt so far, but I’d love to hear from more of you.

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