IN THE COMPANY OF: Justin Barnes, managing director of Bass & Bligh, the photographic shop in Harrogate

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In the latest of our ‘In the Company Of’ features, we spoke to Justin Barnes, managing director of Bass & Bligh in Harrogate.

Name: Justin Barnes

Age: 40

Birthplace: Harrogate

Justin Barnes, managing director of Brass & Bligh, the photographic shop in HarrogateJustin Barnes, managing director of Brass & Bligh, the photographic shop in Harrogate
Justin Barnes, managing director of Brass & Bligh, the photographic shop in Harrogate

Job title: Managing Director

Company name: Bass & Bligh

Company address: 6 Beulah Street, Harrogate HG1 1QQ

Website address:

Company founded: 1950

Turnover: n/a

Number of staff: 4

Q: In a nutshell, what does your company do and how did it start?

A: It started 70 years ago and I took over the reins 23 years ago.

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Bass & Bligh is a one-stop photographic and optical retailer located in the beautiful town of Harrogate, selling everything from new to pre-owned, entry-level to professional equipment, and everything in between including accessories and batteries.

We also carry out high-quality printing for our customers, including passport photos.

Ever since becoming a father I have become a bit of a pro at getting children to sit still and look in the right direction.

Q: What's the most surprising thing about it?

A: The most surprising thing is that it is still here.

The shop is now seen as a hub in the photographic community.

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People come from far and wide to visit the shop or even pop in for a chat about photography or optics.

We may be a small shop, but we make a large impact.

Visitors comment all the time that you just don’t see camera shops like Bass & Bligh any more, which is nice to hear.

Q: What do you do in the business?

A: I am the managing director.

I am at the shop six days a week, serving customers and running the business, as well as managing our website.

It’s a busy shop and I love it.

I am passionate about cameras and optics.

However, I wouldn’t be able to run the shop on my own.

I have a great member of staff, Chris; he is very knowledgeable about cameras and optics so it’s great to have someone with me who can offer our customers a high level of support.

Q: How did you end up here?

A: I fell into it by chance. It’s all I have ever done.

I left college and have done this ever since.

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I have been very lucky really as I am now very passionate about cameras and optics.

I enjoy serving members of the public and helping them in their desired hobby to achieve great results.

Q: If you weren't doing this, what would you be doing?

A: I really enjoy sport and fitness, so something combining this with sales.

I am a regular gym-goer and still play football twice a week.

Q: What motivates you?

A: I enjoy watching the business grow and develop.

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Lockdown was difficult but we added an extra element to the business by launching our website.

It’s great to see people from all over the world buying from our little shop in Harrogate.

I am also motivated by delivering excellent service.

I really enjoy helping customers who come into the shop to find their ideal camera or optic.

It makes my day when they revisit and tell me how they have got on or when they show me some of the great photos they have taken.

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Q: What one thing do you wish you had known when you started out in business?

A: I wish I’d have thought of embracing change a bit sooner.

It was always a worry that consumers were using online services more.

The launch of the website has been a huge success for Bass & Bligh, but I wish we had done this a lot sooner.

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Lockdown gave me the time to do this, which I didn’t have before.

Q: What excites you about business?

A: I find technology exciting – the speed it develops at and the advancements in the industry.

It’s amazing to see how digital cameras have developed even over the last few years.

However, alternatively I also love pre-owned equipment.

We buy and sell this at Bass & Bligh.

It’s so interesting seeing what comes through the door, and exploring the history around it.

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It also makes photography more affordable, especially for aspiring photographers that are just finding their feet with it.

Q: What is your pet hate in business?

A: Paperwork and tidying up.

Bass & Bligh is a small shop packed to the rafters with exciting stock.

However, it is difficult keeping it tidy and organised – we even have cameras hanging from the ceiling.

Q: What advice would you give to people just starting their careers?

A: Try and find something that you love doing.

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We spend most of our lives at work, so it’s important to love what you do.

I was lucky that I fell into this industry and discovered my love of cameras and optics.

It would be great if others could do the same.

Q: Who in business do you most admire, and why?

A: I admire Lewis Morgan, founder of Gymshark.

I like that he made his millions and sold his share of the company because “money isn’t everything” and helping his family “is the most important thing”.

Q: What moments of your career so far stand out?

A: When I took over the reins I felt I made a big impact on the business and changed the direction it was going in.

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Historically, Bass & Bligh was mainly a photo-processing shop.

My vision helped it to evolve into a high-end camera and optics retailer.

I am proud to see what all my hard work and vision has achieved.

Q: What sets your company apart from the competition?

A: There are very few camera shops in the UK.

The service we deliver is second to none and quite niche nowadays.

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I pride myself on selling high-quality new and pre-owned equipment.

With Bass & Bligh you are buying more than a product.

You will receive an excellent level of service.

You will be able to tap into our expertise at various stages of your journey into the world of cameras or optics.

Q: What is the most difficult challenge your company has faced? And what challenges are you experiencing at the moment?

A: As with most businesses, lockdown had a huge effect.

The high street is still recovering from this.

However, we stepped up to the challenge.

We diversified, we launched our website and started making more of a presence on social media.

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This was a difficult period for Bass & Bligh, but it has improved the business no end.

A challenge we face now is the supply of products from the Far East.

So far, we are managing it as we usually keep high levels of stock, but this can be a risk and it has been difficult.

Q: Have you got a five-year plan for the company?

A: My dream would be to keep growing the business and eventually move to bigger premises.

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This would create an even better shopping experience for our customers.

It would be great to have more space and showcase our offering more effectively to our customers.

Q: Why is it good to do business in Harrogate?

A: It’s great to do business in Harrogate.

I am Harrogate born and bred and over the years have witnessed the changing landscape at first hand.

Harrogate is full of small and interesting shops.

More and more empty units are being bought and turned into something new every week.

I take pride that I am not only a part of this community but I am also contributing towards something bigger.

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