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Ritz / Wolf Camera in Liquidation
Posted By: E-man, 09-12-2012, 12:33 PM

I just read that Ritz / Wolf Camera is now in liquidation and the company will shut down in the next couple of months. All of their retail locations have begun marking merchandise down to move it out. Prices are cut 10-30% now. Could be some good deals to be had.
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09-15-2012, 03:12 PM - 2 Likes   #31
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I Worked at Ritz...

It's a very frustrating, very sad story. I was with Ritz for 5 years, from 2007 to June of this year, when I was laid off as part of the bankruptcy plan. When I first started there it was made clear to me that A. printing pictures was their main business and B. They made almost no money on a "naked" camera sale. I was supposed to sell a warranty extension, membership card and camera accessories as a minimum. It was supposed to come to at least 20% of the sale. I did as they told me. For awhile all seemed well. I sold lots of prints and my share of cameras. Then the clouds started to gather. The 2007 Christmas season was lucrative for me, but didn't live up to the company's expectations. I was transferred to a more prosperous store. Business was still melting away. We could see it in the store's numbers, which all of the employees shared. They tried to get us to sell TMobile phones, but it turned out we didn't have the latest models. They were all on backorder. Next we noticed that new merchandise was coming in more slowly and the store just wasn't that well stocked with new camera equipment. The main source of income -- prints -- seemed to still be working, but even that was slowing down. Then the recession hit. I remember that vividly because a guy who had bought a Sony SLR brought it back the very next day saying he could no longer afford it! The 2008 Christmas season was almost nonexistent. By that time, even at this more prosperous store business had dropped by 50%, helped along by a manager who had never done much photography (I learned with my Dad's Bolsey and Leica equipment in the 60's, and still have a Pentax K1000). For reasons too strange to go into here, he turned off a lot of customers and half of his staff!

It was a few months after the horrible 2008 Christmas season that the first ax fell. They declared chapter 11 and for two months the store conducted a liquidation sale. The goods started at 10% and gradually went to 90%. Most of the good stuff disappeared at 20%. They shipped in goods from another store that had no business at all. That was my lucky day. I acquired my K10D, three lenses and a remote trigger at 80% off of list. Later, I got all the filters I needed for all of my lenses at about a dollar each in the store's last days. I ended up locking the gate for the last time and was moved to another store. We soon learned that David Ritz and some partners had bought the most important parts of the chain out of bankruptcy and now had new sources of money. However all was not the same. Canon -- the second biggest creditor after Nikon -- refused to sell anything else to Ritz. Pentax just disappeared, We were never told why with the latter, but I assume it had something to do with Ritz's credit. The two companies had previous runins. At one point several years' previously, Pentax had changed terms on David Ritz. The latter picked up the phone with the Pentax rep in his office and ordered that no more Pentax merchandise be carried! Also we started carrying Verizon phones. The idea was that we would be the place where people would print their camera phone pictures. It lasted about a year or so with really bad sales. Then one day all of the Verizon merchandise was recalled.

As time went on at the next store I went to, Ritz became more creative selling stuff that raised immediate cash while providing only a promise of any goods or services; cards good for 300 prints; memberships that got certain discounts (eventually they became the only way to get any discount on prints); most creative was a scheme where you promised to buy $20 a month of print services. In return you'd get at least $75 off the price of a new camera. Later it was changed to either that or a $75 gift card. It was a good deal for somebody who did lots of printing, but we were put under pressure to sell it to everybody. We also started selling photography lessons (which only a few people could really give).

In the fall of 2011, we noticed goods shortages. To print pictures required a steady supply of paper and chemicals. Well, there were times we'd run out of one of those things before we got a new shipment. Cameras seemed to be getting fewer too. Also at this time, they really turned up the pressure to sell the "cash boosters." People who didn't had their hours cut and in the end it meant that those whose sales tactics were the most like used car salesmen became the most successful people. In the end, I was made a part-timer and was completely cut away when they declared chapter 11 again on June 22. We had no inkling it would happen. The month before they hinted that there was more money in the pipeline and that the store would get more hours overall. They even said we made a profit in the second quarter! I assume what happened is that they were about to sign a deal with another investor, who saw what was really going on and walked away. They announced at the time they declared the second bankruptcy that half the stores would close and that they were looking for another buyer to take over the chain.

I guessed after I left that they probably wouldn't find anymore money out there. And I will also admit to feeling a bit of schadenfreude when I found out that the chain was finished. I speculate that the people at the top had what I like to call family-itis. It looks like David Ritz assumed that since Ritz had been around his whole life that it would survive forever. Further, he'd probably been around cameras so much that he was sick of them. Hence his starting Boater's World, and buying business jets. He had to give all that up in the first bankruptcy.

In looking at what's been going on since, it appears that most of the merchandise will be sold off by the liquidators. C & A marketing keeps open five stores out of the 140 or so that were left. I note that none of them are near Ritz's final headquarters in Beltsville, Maryland. Two of the stores operate as Wolf Camera in Texas and Alabama. The Utah store is under the Inkley's name. The Portland store operates as Camera World, and the lone remaining Ritz store will be in Riverside, California. How ironic that originally, Ritz bought Wolf Camera out of bankruptcy. I assume C&A is doing this out of some legal obligation. What they are really after is all of the web business; the ritzpix.com photo printing service and the ritzcamera.com camera site. David Ritz became a minority owner in his own company last year when Transom Capital brought in 8 million dollars. Some British investors showed up last year. We were told it was a chain over there that had gone through bankruptcy. I wouldn't be surprised if it was Jacob's, given the timing of their closing.

What can I say about retail photography stores? As things ended up, most of the clientele were older people who preferred film. A quarter of the business was still in developing it within an hour. Print customers were more varied. As time went on, more and more of what we printed came from cell phones. I went from selling a camera a day to about a camera a week. Originally, $100 and $200 cameras were most of the business, with an SLR thrown in every so often. At end I was as likely to sell an SLR as anything else as my one camera per week.

Camera and print retailing will shrink forever from neighborhood operations to web only or big city specialty shops like B&H. They can still print pictures for you at less than you can print them at home. I predict automated photographic paper printing will die, to be replaced by ink jet printing that will be so good you won't be able to tell how it was printed. I was told that Ritz would only be able to get about $500 for their photographic paper printers. Maybe one of you wants one?

Thanks for reading

09-15-2012, 04:31 PM   #32
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I've noticed you can't get really good deals at bankruptcy sales anymore -- the liquidators only mark it down 10-20% and then just take it away somewhere. What's the world coming to when a "going out of business" sale isn't even any fun anymore?

But your timeline mirrors my own economic destruction with our business, which used to be mainly selling t-shirts with goofy stuff on them -- it just fell off a cliff starting in late 2007. 80% of our income gone within a year...

Last edited by vonBaloney; 09-15-2012 at 04:54 PM.
09-15-2012, 04:48 PM   #33
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Ritz Liquidation Sale

In 2009, the liquidator started the sale at 10% off. Each week or so the discount increased by 10%. As I said in my previous post, all the "good" stuff disappeared when the discount was at 20%. A few things hung on after that, but it was mostly gone. If you kept waiting, what was left became good deals when the liquidator started selling things like the store's office supplies off at a dollar a lot. As far as I know, the liquidator didn't remove any stock from our store.
09-15-2012, 07:10 PM   #34
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Do they still stock their Quantaray brand items?

I did plan to visit the local store today but didn't quite made it. Anyone had the chance to check out their offerings today?

09-15-2012, 07:29 PM   #35
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Camera World

QuoteOriginally posted by OrangeKx Quote
Did the link above and went to the store finder page and it looks like Camera World in Portland, OR will open under new management (along with 4 other locations in the U.S.).
That's good to hear, they're a MAX-train away from my office so I drop in fairly often. I'm glad they will have their autonomy again, I never felt comfortable when they hooked up with Ritz.
09-15-2012, 07:40 PM   #36
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QuoteOriginally posted by CameraStoreMan Quote
It's a very frustrating, very sad story. I was with Ritz for 5 years, from 2007 to June of this year, ... [snip] ... Thanks for reading __________________ The Camera Store Man
Thanks for this account CSM, it's good to get the facts from one who experienced it. Welcome aboard BTW.
09-15-2012, 08:18 PM   #37
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Quantaray Merchandise

QuoteOriginally posted by jhaji Quote
Do they still stock their Quantaray brand items? (snip)
Quantaray as a brand name covers many different types of merchandise, some good, some bad. So I'd say there's an excellent chance it will be there. Their cleaning kits, camera bags and filters are alright as are their more expensive tripods. Stay away from their batteries and chargers (I found this out the hard way). Their more recent flashes are good if you have any Nikon or Canon equipment. The old flashes that required a different module for each brand I would worry about. Some of the ones they made for Pentax could break the camera! I ended up buying a Pentax flash for my K10D.
09-16-2012, 12:12 AM   #38
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QuoteOriginally posted by CameraStoreMan Quote
Thanks for reading
Thanks for posting and welcome.

I'm sorry you lost your job in this deal. I can totally relate on the warranties and stuff. When I was in university, I worked retail and I routinely sold a ton of merchandise every time I worked, but all they were interested in was new credit accounts. I was constantly getting called on the carpet for not getting enough new credit applications. It was so bad, some employees would go so far as to "assist" people who had no hope of getting approved. I mean one coworker literally signed someone's application for them. I finally told them if that was really what they wanted, I wasn't their man and I quit.

QuoteOriginally posted by CameraStoreMan Quote
So I'd say there's an excellent chance it will be there.
I might stop by the Wolf in town and see if they have anything.

09-16-2012, 04:17 AM   #39
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QuoteOriginally posted by CameraStoreMan Quote
David Ritz became a minority owner in his own company last year when Transom Capital brought in 8 million dollars
The two single items that brought Ritz to the point of no return; David Ritz and the number crunchers. So what does the numbers crunchers mean exactly? It's almost a numbers game, much like the Best Buy employees being forced into quotas or they lose their jobs after two months.

Dave Ritz basically wasted most every company resource down to and beyond the companies last dollar. He wasted it on his many planes (inclluding jets), many boats (actually yaughts), and other activites which were basically viewed as him having a continual college frat party. Perhaps Dave Ritz would have been better suited as an Enron leader.
09-16-2012, 04:28 PM   #40
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David Ritz and the Number Crunchers

Private jets cost millions of dollars and I wonder if David bought them or leased them. If it was the former, he might easily have paid off a creditor or two by selling them. However, I would have preferred that he lavished the money on his company. Too late now!

Like anything, number crunching has its moments. Unless you look at the statistics, you can't always tell if somebody is just standing around rather than selling merchandise. On the other hand, if the company becomes desperate for cash, number crunching always favors the "sharks" -- the people who steal sales, steal long time customers, trick people into signing up for warranties or similar programs, or squeeze people into buying merchandise they neither want nor need.The worst are when the sharks don't even know what they're selling! I've had to clean up things after a few of their "deals."

Thanks for reading
09-18-2012, 09:07 AM   #41
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I got my first camera from camera world in Portland way back I think 1998. Canno ELPH, APS.
I took it around the world a couple times.
09-18-2012, 04:36 PM   #42
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CameraStoreMan, Ritz used to sell a number of rebadged Tamron and Sigma lenses under its Quantaray name. Did they cease that after the previous bankruptcy?
09-22-2012, 12:26 PM   #43
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Rebagged Lenses and More...

QuoteOriginally posted by jhaji Quote
CameraStoreMan, Ritz used to sell a number of rebadged Tamron and Sigma lenses under its Quantaray name. Did they cease that after the previous bankruptcy?
I think they did. I bought two Sigma lenses the same day I bought my K10D back in May, 2009. And in their Ultra stores they continued to have some stock of both these and genuine Pentax lenses for a few further months. After that, all Pentax merchandise was recalled and I assume went to the sellout store in Texas (sorry, I don't remember where). Since then the only way to get a lens that would fit a Pentax camera through Ritz was to special order a Tamron lens. They had an excellent reputation because they had pretty good quality, a six year warranty(!) and were significantly cheaper than manufacturer branded lenses. We were told that in fact Tamron was often the actual manufacturer of many camera brand lenses. An easy way to tell was if both Tamron and some camera manufacturer simultaneously announced the availability of the same lens. I noticed this with some Nikon lenses (oh how I wish I remembered which ones).

To other news, somebody still working for Ritz revealed that C & A Marketing bought at least 12 more Ritz stores from the receiver last Monday, including the Bethesda store here near Washington DC. I don't know where the other locations are. I had called to find out what had happened to my employment records after not being able to get through to the headquarters. I was told that for all practical purposes, Ritz has already ceased to exist as a corporate entity. The only thing left was a customer service line (and nobody answered that either).
09-22-2012, 04:43 PM   #44
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QuoteOriginally posted by CameraStoreMan Quote
It's a very frustrating, very sad story. I was with Ritz for 5 years, from 2007 to June of this year, when I was laid off as part of the bankruptcy plan. When I first started there it was made clear to me that A. printing pictures was their main business and B. They made almost no money on a "naked" camera sale. I was supposed to sell a warranty extension, membership card and camera accessories as a minimum. It was supposed to come to at least 20% of the sale. I did as they told me. For awhile all seemed well. I sold lots of prints and my share of cameras. Then the clouds started to gather. The 2007 Christmas season was lucrative for me, but didn't live up to the company's expectations. I was transferred to a more prosperous store. Business was still melting away. We could see it in the store's numbers, which all of the employees shared. They tried to get us to sell TMobile phones, but it turned out we didn't have the latest models. They were all on backorder. Next we noticed that new merchandise was coming in more slowly and the store just wasn't that well stocked with new camera equipment. The main source of income -- prints -- seemed to still be working, but even that was slowing down. Then the recession hit. I remember that vividly because a guy who had bought a Sony SLR brought it back the very next day saying he could no longer afford it! The 2008 Christmas season was almost nonexistent. By that time, even at this more prosperous store business had dropped by 50%, helped along by a manager who had never done much photography (I learned with my Dad's Bolsey and Leica equipment in the 60's, and still have a Pentax K1000). For reasons too strange to go into here, he turned off a lot of customers and half of his staff!

It was a few months after the horrible 2008 Christmas season that the first ax fell. They declared chapter 11 and for two months the store conducted a liquidation sale. The goods started at 10% and gradually went to 90%. Most of the good stuff disappeared at 20%. They shipped in goods from another store that had no business at all. That was my lucky day. I acquired my K10D, three lenses and a remote trigger at 80% off of list. Later, I got all the filters I needed for all of my lenses at about a dollar each in the store's last days. I ended up locking the gate for the last time and was moved to another store. We soon learned that David Ritz and some partners had bought the most important parts of the chain out of bankruptcy and now had new sources of money. However all was not the same. Canon -- the second biggest creditor after Nikon -- refused to sell anything else to Ritz. Pentax just disappeared, We were never told why with the latter, but I assume it had something to do with Ritz's credit. The two companies had previous runins. At one point several years' previously, Pentax had changed terms on David Ritz. The latter picked up the phone with the Pentax rep in his office and ordered that no more Pentax merchandise be carried! Also we started carrying Verizon phones. The idea was that we would be the place where people would print their camera phone pictures. It lasted about a year or so with really bad sales. Then one day all of the Verizon merchandise was recalled.

As time went on at the next store I went to, Ritz became more creative selling stuff that raised immediate cash while providing only a promise of any goods or services; cards good for 300 prints; memberships that got certain discounts (eventually they became the only way to get any discount on prints); most creative was a scheme where you promised to buy $20 a month of print services. In return you'd get at least $75 off the price of a new camera. Later it was changed to either that or a $75 gift card. It was a good deal for somebody who did lots of printing, but we were put under pressure to sell it to everybody. We also started selling photography lessons (which only a few people could really give).

In the fall of 2011, we noticed goods shortages. To print pictures required a steady supply of paper and chemicals. Well, there were times we'd run out of one of those things before we got a new shipment. Cameras seemed to be getting fewer too. Also at this time, they really turned up the pressure to sell the "cash boosters." People who didn't had their hours cut and in the end it meant that those whose sales tactics were the most like used car salesmen became the most successful people. In the end, I was made a part-timer and was completely cut away when they declared chapter 11 again on June 22. We had no inkling it would happen. The month before they hinted that there was more money in the pipeline and that the store would get more hours overall. They even said we made a profit in the second quarter! I assume what happened is that they were about to sign a deal with another investor, who saw what was really going on and walked away. They announced at the time they declared the second bankruptcy that half the stores would close and that they were looking for another buyer to take over the chain.

I guessed after I left that they probably wouldn't find anymore money out there. And I will also admit to feeling a bit of schadenfreude when I found out that the chain was finished. I speculate that the people at the top had what I like to call family-itis. It looks like David Ritz assumed that since Ritz had been around his whole life that it would survive forever. Further, he'd probably been around cameras so much that he was sick of them. Hence his starting Boater's World, and buying business jets. He had to give all that up in the first bankruptcy.

In looking at what's been going on since, it appears that most of the merchandise will be sold off by the liquidators. C & A marketing keeps open five stores out of the 140 or so that were left. I note that none of them are near Ritz's final headquarters in Beltsville, Maryland. Two of the stores operate as Wolf Camera in Texas and Alabama. The Utah store is under the Inkley's name. The Portland store operates as Camera World, and the lone remaining Ritz store will be in Riverside, California. How ironic that originally, Ritz bought Wolf Camera out of bankruptcy. I assume C&A is doing this out of some legal obligation. What they are really after is all of the web business; the ritzpix.com photo printing service and the ritzcamera.com camera site. David Ritz became a minority owner in his own company last year when Transom Capital brought in 8 million dollars. Some British investors showed up last year. We were told it was a chain over there that had gone through bankruptcy. I wouldn't be surprised if it was Jacob's, given the timing of their closing.

What can I say about retail photography stores? As things ended up, most of the clientele were older people who preferred film. A quarter of the business was still in developing it within an hour. Print customers were more varied. As time went on, more and more of what we printed came from cell phones. I went from selling a camera a day to about a camera a week. Originally, $100 and $200 cameras were most of the business, with an SLR thrown in every so often. At end I was as likely to sell an SLR as anything else as my one camera per week.

Camera and print retailing will shrink forever from neighborhood operations to web only or big city specialty shops like B&H. They can still print pictures for you at less than you can print them at home. I predict automated photographic paper printing will die, to be replaced by ink jet printing that will be so good you won't be able to tell how it was printed. I was told that Ritz would only be able to get about $500 for their photographic paper printers. Maybe one of you wants one?

Thanks for reading
Late to the party, not reading any of the replies. Thank you for writing.
09-23-2012, 09:26 AM   #45
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The sorry story of Ritz may tell us something about the wisdom of Pentax having a stratgy of getting into bricks and mortar stores. i.e. it may well not be successful because there aren't any bricks and mortar around.

the formula for camera stores for a century has been to sell photo processing, and have to varying degrees show cases of camera equipment around
hoping to catch a customer's eye when they were buying film or processing. well photo processing doesn't exist any more and Eastman Kodak
understands that. Low end cameras have give way to smart phones and 'printing' means uploading to facebook.

the demise of low end dedicated cameras has been widely reported, but is also confirmed by the Camerastore guy who find himself selling as many SLR's
as low end cameras at the 'end'. The low end camera simply isn't going to do anything that the smart phone won't, so why bother....

But the rest of the story is-----paying the rent where the only product sold is upscale SLR equipment---seems like a business formula that will be difficult
to execute.
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