London Camera Exchange moves to employee ownership as shops are set to re-open

• Specialist photographic retail chain to be owned by 140-strong workforce via Ownership Trust, breaking ties with original founders
• Company bucks the trend over the last 10 years with 32% increase in revenue
• New branch to be launched as soon as non-essential shops re-open

London Camera Exchange, England’s largest chain of independent photographic stores, has announced it is to move to employee ownership after 65 years as a family business.

Originally planned for March 2020, the transition was delayed due to the pandemic, but the change to employee ownership will now be completed at the end of March 2021.

An Employee Ownership Trust has been set up with trustees consisting of employees who will represent the company’s 140-strong workforce.

Outgoing owner Steve Hall commented, “While the business is breaking direct links with the family of its founders, we are essentially moving to the ownership of the broader London Camera Exchange family. My father was a great believer in people, and this is something that he would have wanted. I am pleased to be able to pass over the business to its loyal employee family in such great shape.”

The transition is being overseen by managing director Nick Richens, who commented, “London Camera Exchange has gone about its business in a modest and carefully-managed style over the years. This has allowed it to grow and prosper – most recently in a harsh business environment. It is testament to the people working within the group that it has stood the test of time and has established the strong foundations that will enable this new ownership model.”

Nick Richens will become the chief executive of the new company, with current director Lee Harasyn stepping into his shoes as managing director. Lee Harasyn added, “I am looking forward to building upon our success and taking London Camera Exchange forward as the leading photographic specialist.”

While London Camera Exchange is proud of its history, it is very much focused on the future. As a predominately high street bricks and mortar business, the initial lockdown period had a major impact on the company’s revenue. However, by quickly adapting to online operations, and innovations such as virtual demonstrations and events, the company was able to maintain a healthy level of business throughout 2020. Over 10 years, the company has grown 32% in an industry that has seen a consumer market decline of over 70%* in the same period.

Once the transition has taken place, shop managers and staff will all continue in their existing roles, but with the greater engagement and commitment that employee ownership brings.

Nick Richens said, “Everyone across the organisation is very fired up and excited by the opportunity of working together to strengthen the London Camera Exchange brand and continuing to provide customers access to the latest equipment, trade-ins and the premium level of service they expect from our teams.”

Once non-essential shops are permitted to begin trading again, London Camera Exchange plans to expand its high street portfolio with the opening of a new store. The shop is currently being fitted out and full details will be announced next month, but the new premises will be located in Park Street, Bristol.

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