London Camera Exchange, England's largest chain of independent photographic stores, is set to reopen all 26 branches as the lockdown restrictions lift in the UK – and it is also set to open a new 27th branch.
Not only will the 140-strong workforce enjoy getting back to their stores after a long hibernation during the pandemic, they will also be celebrating their shared ownership of the business – which moves to an Ownership Trust, after 65 years of trading as a family owned company.
"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," said outgoing owner, Steve Hall.
"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."
It's a significant step for the company, which is one of the few businesses – let alone brick-and-mortar retailers – to buck the trend of the downturn in the industry over the last decade.
Indeed, while the wider photographic market has seen a 70% decline over the past 10 years, London Camera Exchange has experienced an impressive 32% growth – which stands in stark contrast to the news that Jessops is going to administration for a third time, putting 17 stores and 120 staff at risk.
"London Camera Exchange has gone about its business in a modest and carefully-managed style over the years," said managing director, Nick Richens, who is overseeing the transition.
"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."
Once non-essential businesses are allowed to reopen in the UK, London Camera Exchange will open its newest premises on Park Street in Bristol.