Park Cameras first opened its door 50 years ago driven by one man’s singular vision, thriving on the combined passion of many people along the way, and the ambition of changing the face of independent photography retailers.
With the challenge accepted by founder Reg Atkins, with just £500 in cash, a range of used stock and an old banger for transportation – Park Cameras was born.
Today, Park Cameras consists of two successful stores, one in West Sussex which doubles as our Head Office and one in the heart of London’s bustling streets – both with an expansive range of products for our customers to touch and try, and ultimately leave elated with.
Alongside this we have a rapidly expanding web and contact centre team, based in our Burgess Hill HQ, working with the increasingly growing warehouse operations teams to provide the same honest and friendly advice to customers over the phone and on the internet.
50 years ago, in Lower Church Road, Park Cameras opened its doors for the first time to sell its first photographic equipment, initially armed with just £500 worth of used cameras as stock. The foundations of our company were set in place, and Reg Atkins then brought in some friends to help, along with his sister-in-law, Lin, for over 30 years, 3 of his children, his nephew, his niece, his brother and roped in his parents many times too!
Reg started the business with one clear vision:
“To provide good, honest, friendly advice from one photographer to another.”
Just a short 5 years later, our home for the next 30 plus years, 115 Lower Church Road in Burgess Hill saw us grow through the ages as Park Cameras developed into the largest independent photographic retailer in Sussex.
Continued growth through the years meant that in 1980 we had to expand our store to cater for our demand. We were delighted to have F1 driver James Hunt on hand to cut the ribbon!
The 1990s probably saw the biggest shift in the photography industry ever. First of all, Park Cameras were very early adopters of the future with large capital investments to back Canon’s still video cameras and show off the features at the time.
For those that don’t know the Canon RC-260 recorded analog TV scan lines to a new video floppy disk. So it sort of worked like a digital camera but you needed expensive digitizer boards to get the images to your apple macintosh, and then expensive fiery and printing hardware to get your output. It was cutting edge at the time, but we wouldn’t recommend it in 2021!
1996 saw the launch of the Advanced Photo System (APS)… remember that? It was actually pretty good at the time, making loading your film sort of fool-proof but the system didn’t last long.
Along the way, Park Cameras always kept up with the latest photography trends and it was in the late 90s when consumer digital cameras really became a viable option… although at 0.3 megapixels, I’d certainly go for something more modern in 2021!
In 1999 rather than the traditional bricks and mortar approach, we decided to delve into the internet for our next phase of expansion. With store manager Chris Reszke and current Managing Director, Roscoe Atkins, working together to launch our first website.
Throughout the years we have gone through various website designs and new platforms to what we have here today in order to keep up with the demands of an ever-changing environment.
Our team has grown exponentially over the past few years to cope with the increased demands of a more tech-savvy customer. This growth has seen Park Cameras become the one of the largest independent photographic retailers online and one which we strongly believe is down to following our in-store maxims of providing top customer service and expert knowledge.
Hot on the heels of our online expansion was our first foray into branching out, with an opportunity to acquire an extra shop just a few miles down the road from our Burgess Hill store. The Haywards Heath store allowed us to serve a greater number of people in the local area and foretold the company’s visions of further growth in the competitive camera market. And whilst, we have been handling developing and printing for decades, we took the opportunity with the new high street location to open our first minilab to develop and process prints onsite.
In 2003 we opened our new warehouse in Burgess Hill. To keep up with the huge increase in mail order and internet sales, we had to expand our warehouse!
In 2008 we moved to our current home in Burgess Hill, a purpose built HQ, project managed by the father-and-son team of Reg and Roscoe which would see the most ambitious undertaking of our company in the lead up to its 40th birthday.
To celebrate the occasion, we teamed up with our old friends at Olympus to attract the impressively famous photographer David Bailey to mark the occasion with a careful scissor snip to some red ribbon, to officially mark the opening of our new premises.
It was also a goodbye to our old warehouse and both of our previous stores in Burgess Hill and Haywards Heath – which held many good memories for us, but were the beginnings of greater things to come.
With a vast area for showing off a vast range of camera, lenses and accessories from a variety of brands we also managed to squeeze in a full-blown studio area, a training room complete with PCs and Apple Macs plus our offices for running the contact centre and web operations.
We envisage this Burgess Hill location to remain our headquarters for some time whilst we expand our operations even more throughout the years to come.
Boasting a great deal more space in our new home we introduced our ‘Imaging Festival’ in the summer of 2009 – one of the largest one-day photo events in the country.
The Imaging Festival became an annual affair, with us opening our doors to hundreds of customers who could receive free seminars from professional photographers, expert advice from many of our suppliers and incredibly offers that are exclusively for that day only.
With the addition of a London branch we were able to expand out the event across two weekends in our two different locations to offer this opportunity to more of our customers. Over the years we’ve been delighted to welcome faces old and new, and thoroughly enjoy all the hard work and preparation that makes this day come together!
With YouTube now the second largest search engine and so many of our customers watching product reviews before committing to a purchase, we’re so pleased to have reached the 20,000 subscribers (and by doing so have made Gareth famous in the photographic space)
Join us and let’s continue the conversation!
After more than 40 years at the helm of Park Cameras, Reg retired and Roscoe took over the reins from his father and became the Managing Director and leader of Park Cameras. Roscoe took his fathers vision and built on it, with a new vision:
“To be the most inspiring place for everything photographic.”
With this new vision and new leadership, Roscoe’s first big mark on Park Cameras was to work towards expansion, which happened just a short while later with with the successful opening of our Central London store.
With our Burgess Hill headquarters and website/phone operations flourishing we decided to expand out to an entirely new region for us, with the opening of a new store in the capital.
In a prime location of Rathbone Place, just opposite Tottenham Court Road tube station, our newest store was an ambitious new challenge for the company and one that has helped us go from strength-to-strength over the years since opening.
The same values apply to our London store, a massive selection of products for customers to touch and try in-store with expert advice and that same customer service level you will see whether in London, Burgess Hill, speaking on the phone or chatting to us online!
To keep up with the ever-changing world and customer demands, we launched our new and much improved website in 2015! This was the biggest change to our website we had seen thus far with so many features that our old site had never had, including a new learning site search, Used products online, Paypal payments and a newly introduced Click & Collect service. We didn’t stop there, we worked hard at getting the website mobile friendly, with the drive of the time being focused on these devices!
In 2015 we began our biggest recruitment drive and expanded our team massively. We began to create a Senior Management Team to help Roscoe with strategic focus of the business, while helping with the day to day running. We added Warehouse staff, buyers and commercial specialists as well as expanded our used buy-in team and grew our marketing team. All of which has enabled us to grow so much stronger in the recent years!
Following on from the popular Imaging Festivals of the Summer, we introduced the first of our Christmas Shopping Days in December 2016.
Similar to the Imaging Festivals, these festive days became annual with both stores offering a wide range of exclusive offers, and a wide range of seminars for customers to learn about the latest products available to photo enthusiasts, as well as sessions to help customers get the most out of the cameras they already owned, or to improve their techniques for genres of photography, or the use of Adobe Lightroom.
In later years we have extended the Christmas Shopping Days to include photo walks from our London store, offering customers free tips and tricks on how to capture the magic of Christmas in a ‘real world’ environment.
With our vision being focused on inspiring our customers and perfecting the "Park Cameras customer experience", we continued to develop the in-store experience, with innovative displays, largely in branded zones. We continue to this day to change the layout of our stores to reflect the ever-adapting product ranges and experiences to be able to best demonstrate their innovative features and benefits.
In order to showcase the quality of our expanded range of binoculars and spotting scopes in the best way, we built a bird hide within our Burgess hill store. This hide allows customers to try the product with the feel of being out in the wilderness and getting a sighting of that long-awaited bird!
In September 2020, Park Cameras launched a refresh of the website, offering a new design, with easier navigation and more security than ever before.
The aim of the new site is to provide our customers with even better information which is presented more clearly, covering the diverse range of photographic equipment we supply. We have also introduced a number of new features to make shopping with us a smoother and more enjoyable process.
The new website also saw the introduction ‘Park Points’ loyalty scheme, where regular customers can benefit not only from our award-winning service, but also from accumulated loyalty points which can be traded for gift vouchers.
Of course, the work doesn’t just stop here, and in the future we’ll be regularly updating website content with new product information, informative blog articles and newsletters featuring the latest releases and special offers.
At Park Cameras, we’re always looking for ways to improve the shopping experience we offer to our customers in store, and as such have made a number of updates.
Most recently, we’ve updated the Canon, Fujifilm and Manfrotto areas of the Burgess Hill store, with the London store also seeing updates for Panasonic, Olympus and Canon. Redesigning key areas of the store has made it easier for customers to get hands-on with cameras, lenses and accessories, to aid them in making informed decisions prior to any potential purchase. We’ve also added a number of focal points in both stores to aid customers in trying out new kit, so that they can see how different products perform..
As models and customer needs change through the years, we’re committed to continuing to develop both our stores to try and provide the very best shopping experience possible.
Throughout Park Cameras 50 year history, we are proud of the fact that we’ve been able to be one of the first places in the UK to showcase the latest new products for customers to learn more about and get hands-on with them prior to general sale.
In recent years, products include the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Nikon D850 and even hosted breakfast for our customers so that they wouldn’t miss out on arguably the most important meals of the day, but could also be one of the first to see the Fujifilm X-H1.
We strive to be able to share the latest new products available with our customers, working with the biggest photography brands and leading professional photographers so that they can make informed decisions on what will suit their needs best.
Over our 50-year history, Park Cameras have headed out across the UK, supporting a number of events.
In recent years, events include Shoreham Air Show, The Broadcast Video Expo, Farnborough Airshow, Comic Con, Birdfair and The Societies of Photographers Convention. 2020 saw the cancellation of many events across the country, but hopefully 2021 will see a better year, and we can continue to share the joys of photography with customers across the UK.
We certainly aren't going to stop there with a range of new online features planned for 2021 so watch this space! And if there's an idea you have for how we can better inspire/ serve our customers then we are more than happy to hear it so please do get in touch! We plan to be here for the next 50 years so we will continue to listen and adapt to the changing needs of our fellow photographers.
Events at Park Cameras
Throughout the year, Park Cameras hold and attend a range of events. For photographers currently stuck indoors, as opposed to our events that are traditionally held in store or on the road, we are currently working on a range of events that can be held in the comfort and safety of your own home. In these uncertain times, there’s never been a better time to get to grips with your camera, and hopefully we can help achieve this. Find out more