Henry’s Camera Acquired By Private Equity Firm For Retail Growth: Interview With CEO Gillian Stein

June 13, 2023

Canadian camera store Henry’s, with 20 locations across the country, has been family-owned, and operated for four generations since it first opened its doors in 1909.

But recently the company announced it had been acquired by Lynx Equity Limited and joined its portfolio of companies. 

Gillian Stein, CEO of Henry’s, will continue to lead the company as part of the Lynx family.

Image of Gillian Stein, CEO of Henry's: Canada's Greatest Camera Store
Gillian Stein

“I’m excited that this acquisition will help drive our growth strategy and better position us to serve Canadian photographers, filmmakers, and content creators,” she said. “Our team will remain focused on providing the exceptional Henry’s experience to customers both online and in-store, with Lynx’s support and expertise to continue strengthening and growing our business."

“It’s always been the plan to sell. When you look back over our history, each generation has bought it from the previous generation. It’s not a company that was ever just handed down and given to the next generation. There’s been a hard work that’s gone on between each generation. For my parents, their vision was always to sell it. It’s gotten a lot bigger so the idea is that at a certain point a company this size needs more to be able to get it to grow further.

“It’s really about having the right partner. I’ve never met another private equity firm or known a private equity firm that works like Lynx. It’s their buy/hold strategy which is the biggest part for us because the last thing we wanted was somebody who was going to take it and try and flip it or cut it up and do all the things private equity does. So the idea is this means the legacy continues. It’s something that was really important to us.”

Image of a framed blueprint of Henry's former flagship and head office on 119 Church Street in Toronto, Ontario.
Former Henry’s Flagship and Head Office at 119 Church (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

Henry’s will continue to be headquartered in the Greater Toronto Area. With this acquisition, Henry’s is poised to grow and accelerate its business across Canada.

Stein said Lynx will bring much stability and support to Henry’s.

“It’s been obviously a challenging few years for anybody in retail and having somebody behind us that has that stability is something that’s really important. So our focus is really about making sure that our inventory levels are strong, that we’re able to invest and continue to invest as we have in the right systems and training and people to be able to continue serving customers the way we have,” said Stein.

“There’s no major change. They’re buying a company that they like, that has a fantastic track record. So it’s about continuing that.”

Does Stein see the retailer’s footprint growing in the future?

“We’re looking at our real estate as we always have. We look at the markets we’re in and try to make sure that we’re in the right places at the right time. Some of our locations we’ve exited over the past as they were absolutely the right places to be when we first opened them but then markets change, people move, demographics change, so we’re always evaluating it,” she said.

“We don’t have a plan to go and hit a target of X number of stores per year, anything like that. It’s always about making sure that we have the right presence and the right places. So we always focus on making sure we’ve got a good physical presence across Canada.”

Black and white image of Henry's: Canada's Greatest Camera Store on 135 Church Street (Toronto, Ontario) in 1965.
Henry’s at 135 Church Street in 1965

The company said  Lynx will support Henry’s continued investment in providing a seamless experience to its in-store and online customers, driven by its updated website and enhanced ecommerce capability.

As a result of Lynx’s investment, Henry’s commitment to improving, modernizing and updating the customer experience will continue to grow, along with efforts to increase community involvement and deepen social engagement with creators across the country, it said.

“We are thrilled to have Henry’s join the Lynx family,” said Brad Nathan, Founder and President of Lynx. “Henry’s has a long history as a strong Canadian, family-owned business and we’re looking forward to being part of its legacy. As Canada’s greatest camera store and one of the largest companies in its category, it has a legacy well worth protecting. 

“Backed by our extensive support and dedicated team, Henry’s will continue to provide leading-edge products and services for photographers, filmmakers, and content creators. We look forward to this partnership as we continue to drive the growth of this great Canadian brand.”

Image of Henry's new concept store in Oakville, Ontario.
New Henry’s Concept in Oakville (Image: Henry’s)

In a news release, Henry’s Chair Andrew Stein said he is proud to have grown the Henry’s brand into what it is today while building on his father’s and grandfather’s legacies, and seeing his daughters Gillian and Amy, drive it to new heights.

“I’m thrilled that we’ve found Lynx: someone who believes in our vision and our team, and who wants to preserve my family’s legacy and see the Henry’s name live on. I have achieved more than I ever imagined with this company, and this acquisition will help drive Henry’s to an even higher level of success,” he said. 

The Henry’s Foundation, a charitable organization that supports the improvement of mental health, is not part of the acquisition, but Henry’s will continue to support mental health awareness, de-stigmatization and support for all Canadians. 

The Toronto-based Lynx is a private equity firm that specializes in acquiring small and medium-sized businesses from owners looking to retire. Brad Nathan, Joanna Lipfeld, and Judith Benattar founded Lynx in 2007.

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