Michaels Camera Video and Digital, ‘the largest single camera store in the Southern Hemisphere’, will close its doors permanently on Friday, January 8.
‘After 38 years full-time in our industry, I am sadly advising that I am retiring,’ managing director Peter Michael told Inside Imaging. ‘This was inevitable, but the pandemic has prompted my earlier retirement.’
In an article in the Melbourne Age, Peter said customer numbers were 80 per cent down on pre-lockdown levels and the pause placed on the return of office workers to the CBD in January week showed the end of social restrictions was uncertain.
The film processing operation at Michaels closed late last year, perhaps an early sign of where things were heading.
The Michaels family owns the building on the corner of Elizabeth and Little Lonsdale Streets. ‘The Michael family will continue to trade from this iconic location in the future,’ said Peter. ‘However, not as retailers, but back to our roots – as landlords.
‘Our family has traded from this location since 1916, this is 105 years,’ he explained. ‘Originally as a pawnbroker and a gunsmith located in the corner on the ground floor, whilst leasing the remainder of the building to others. My grandfather transformed the business to being a pharmacy in 1925, my father joined him in 1950 also as a pharmacist.
‘In 1976 my father transformed our business into a dedicated camera business. I commenced in 1983. Within a few years it was my task to clear the first floor which had been leased to a restaurant. We finally occupied the whole building.’
Malcolm Kennedy, who heads up the family-owned, Melbourne-based photo equipment distributor CR Kennedy & Co, noted: ‘It’s very sad that Michaels, such an integral part of Melbourne and one of the great camera stores of the world, will be no more.’
After January 8, Michaels will continue to trade for a time directly online and via Ebay. It’s expected Michaels will cease trading as a camera business by around the end of the first quarter – online trading will be to clear existing stock.
‘All amounts owed to our suppliers company will be settled in full as they always have been, and all staff entitlements will be paid in full,’ said Peter.
He said that finding new tenants was ‘a work in progress’.
It’s hoped the Michaels Camera Museum, the largest collection of classic cameras in Australia and one of the great world collections, will find a home in the Melbourne Museum.