RITZ CAMERA STORES


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LATEST at RITZ, is not looking better; after nine months they are still in bankruptcy court; after losing estimated 30  million; and 600 (?) or so stores.

Ten different articles had conflicting numbers of stores because they either counted or didn't count the Boat Stores, other named chains operating as Ritz or visa versa, etc. 

Regardless thats a severe hit on the industry. The situation still has not improved at RITZ. The 39 million dollar settlement to our knowledge has not been paid to date and thats making the Christmas season the hook.

We were told Canon had enough (like for the third time) and won't do business with them till the second quarter. (IF).

The bankruptcy filing indicated Ritz owes Nikon $26.6 million, Canon $13.7 million, and Fujifilm $4 to 8 million. These companies may end up with pennies on the dollar or may even have to write off the whole amount.


OTHER PLAYERS WILL LOSE:
Ritz Interactive, which is a separate web-based ordering company that licenses the Ritz Camera name and runs the RitzCamera.com website, could end up a loser if it does not make it clear to its customers that it is not involved in this bankruptcy filing. They are strictly internet. Ritz Camera is a major supplier to RitzCamera.com.  ( Suggestion: Change the name stupid)

LifePics operates the RitzPix.com online photofinishing site for Ritz Camera, offering the usual on line mail delivery and print-at-store services. InfoTrends believes that Ritz is among its largest retail partners. The loss of Ritz would cut them significantly. 

Kodak Picture Kiosk are found in many of the Ritz stores. If Ritz is unable to continue operations, this large installed base of kiosks will be idled.  (Need a cheap home processor)

Malls will take a hit, few if any Ritz stores are free standing and malls are hurting enough.

POSSIBLE WINNERS:

The winners will be the big box stores with larger selection. Wal-Mart and Best Buy are usually fast to jump on niche product lines and command the best pricing. In addition they have been Ritz's competitor and know their market. They may be a job source for Ritz employees.  The manager of Best Buy had a score of apps from former Ritz employees.

Some smaller photo specialty stores like LakeShore camera in Palm harbor Florida may see a slight increase in business, as they do go a step further in sales offering classes and full instructional education when you pick up the new camera with followup. Something you never got when you bought from the chains. READ the BOOK. 

Some of these smaller photo specialty stores bought lab gear and printers from the closing stores.

CANON:
They pulled their salvageable inventory. Rumors of Nikon stepping in using Brain Fart Theory #7 would seem strange to me. 

Nikon wished they had the Mom and Pop Pro stores back, they blew off when they went big box. And not in expensive malls with high overhead and hours. Inside malls work in cold weather. The trend here in the south is open malls. They need perhaps an area pro center like APPLE serving say a 150 mile radius if they want to get into the retail end too.

If the remaining RITZ stores want to make it after Christmas, they better find a new operator. Dave Ritz's Mojo might be worn out. Otherwise, if it's a weak Christmas season as they are predicting and no Canon on the shelves, it could be Sayonara, one of my movie favorites. 


ORIGINAL NEWS RELEASES:
Ritz Camera’s creditors seek money from the chain, published reports indicate. Amounts forecast around $65 million as being owed. Ritz Camera’s bankruptcy papers report assets and debt of $500 million each. Slumping sales and an overall drop in consumer spending are blamed for the downfall.

The largest creditors named in Ritz Camera’s bankruptcy documents are Nikon (owed $26.6 million), Canon (owned $13.7 million), and Fuji Photo Film (owned $8.4 million). the disparity with Fuji is based on stock offered for equipment and actual numbers or value for that matter. To me that is similar to being a cigar smoker in a flight balloon not knowing the difference between hydrogen and helium.

Ritz–based out of Beltsville, Maryland–had more than 1000 stores across the U.S., with locations in 45 states. It also operates a boating supply business, Boater’s World, which is included within the Ritz Camera bankruptcy filing. Ritz says that business was experiencing a sharp drop in sales as well, made worse by high gas prices over the past months.  

Ritz had acquired the nation’s then-second largest camera store chain about eight years ago. The company bought Wolf Camera after it declared bankruptcy in 2001.  Chuck Wolf is related by 2nd degree cousinship marriage to Dave Ritz.

The Ritz chain operates about 900 stores (estimates vary) under names including Ritz Camera, Wolf Camera, Kits Cameras, Inkley's and The Camera Shops. Ritz has also been hurt by its other major property, the 130-store chain of Boater's World Marine Centers, which saw a significant drop in sales in 2008 as gas prices soared and they watched the stinkpot market sink.


OUT ON THE STREET - WHAT DID THEY REALLY THINK OF RITZ    

•  As a California native and resident during art school, I never shopped at Ritz or Kits. They sold everything at MSRP! That was a bad deal even in the pre-internet shopping days.

•  Every experience I had with Ritz camera involved them charging too much (often over MSRP), pushing expensive and needless extended warranties, and replacing kit lenses with garbage third party lenses. There are still plenty of places to get camera gear at reasonable prices without high-pressure sales tactics. I doubt that many will mourn their passing.

•  Ritz was so out of touch with their real/potential customers. I have been to my local Kits store on dozens of occasions and only once have they had what I needed in stock. Their typical response is, "..we can order it for you." My response, "so can I." And to add insult to that, retail will not price match from their own web site. I'm surprised they lasted this long.

•  I grew up in Bowie, Md, near the Ritz Mothership - so all my early camera and photo equipment was purchased at Ritz. Once David Ritz got fat and happy and diversified into boat supplies etc, and expanded all over the country, the customer support grew to be non-existent and the stores only stocked bodies and cheap lenses.

•  Like was said before, I doubt anyone other than his employees will be sorry for this downturn.

THE DEFENSE: COMMENTS BY STAFF
•  Who are you people that are adding comments? Do you even know what an MSRP is? This business is trying to weather the storm through a tough economy. Give them a little credit. As for not matching there own internet prices...they are the same. My question is are you being a responsible purchaser and paying the sales tax owed on your internet purchase? (ouch)

•  They have generally good and knowledgeable people at Ritz, and they choose not to lower there price even though you ask them to. Did you ever think it was because they need the 2% profit on a camera to keep the lights on and make sure that jokers like you can ask a plethora of inane questions to someone who is willing to explain why your flash won't throw light 40 feet away from your Kodak easy share? (ouch)

•  The potential side effects of the Ritz bankruptcy are enormous. Consumers will continue to buy from other sources, but what about the 10,000 employees of Ritz? Nikon, Canon, Fuji, etc. will survive, but what will become of the smaller suppliers to Ritz, those which will probably not receive any monies due them? For many of these smaller suppliers, including OEM manufacturers, Ritz may account for 50%, or more, of their revenue. What will happen to these companies and all of their employees?   (ouch)

•  The fact they were selling boats and pottery (check out the company info at www.mufungo.com) tells me they lost track of what their business was and got into a lot of totally unrelated ventures.
(Great point, Dave was into boats and thought the photo business was self sufficient, including his purchase of a personal dinghy, the SEA BOWLD, Sea Bowld is a 174-foot Oceanfast yacht which was launched in June of 2004.

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•  I'm kinda torn about this. I was a manager for Ritz for some time. I built three stores in Arizona, cleaned up stores in New Mexico and helped with the Wolf takeover in Dallas. The pay that Ritz store managers got was difficult to live on even in my stores which were performing well. If you were a sales person trying to make a living on what they paid was next to impossible.

THE RITZ YACHT AT ANCHOR  ONLY 
36,900,000.00 DOLLARS  


That said I understand how difficult it is to sell cameras in an internet world. Thanks to sites like dpreview consumers know more then the sales people which at that point its a sale based on price and there's no way a tradseabowld8.jpgitional retailer is going to compete unless you are Walmart.

ONE OF THE MANY BEDROOMS,

SLEEPS 10 Plus CREW

Furthermore David Ritz could care less about cameras or photography. He loves his boats and cars not photography and when you lose love you loose touch. Last time I was in a Ritz they were selling the Sony PSP, magazines and tons of other stuff (S--t replaced by stuff) not related to photography.

  •  I do feel bad for all the people in Beltsville and all the employees that are going to leave voluntarily or otherwise. They're good people working their butts off to make a modest living while their company heads made mistakes that Ritz Camera could not survive in a shitty economy. (Amen)

  •  From my experience you might as well buy your camera at Target. Ritz never offered anything special aside from coupons.  Thats a plus for your local professional camera store.

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•  I just lost my job as a Ritz Sales/Lab associate. Corporate Ritz is a load of (S--t) but at least where I live, there are no other camera stores, there is no one to ask anything, and the people I worked with took pride in helping people.  They likely deserve to be bankrupt, the company destroyed local business nationwide, and they work their employees to death, nevertheless, no one else within 100 miles would custom color balance prints.





YOU KNOW, DAVE COULD SELL THE YACHT AND SAVE THE COMPANY....


AUTHOR and PHOTOGRAPHER:
 
Al Jacobson, photographs and writes in the Tampa Bay area on a myriad of subjects. He is from NY and occasionally speaks English, preferring Brooklyn based meta-phonetic syllabication (aka Street English).  His high school English teacher, once commented to his parents, "He should try learning a foreign language like English... in a foreign country".  He retorted, "Shakespeare doth not a genius make, for he spake in terms reminiscent of a flake".  She threw him out of the class.


(copyright AL JACOBSON  DECEMBER 2009)