Washington - The nearly 100-year-old
Ritz Camera legacy is continuing on firmer footing following last year's
bankruptcy, buyout and restructuring by chairman/CEO David Ritz.
Nearly one year after the filing,
the renamed Ritz & Wolf Camera & Image chain has re-opened shuttered
stores, added Verizon Wireless to its expanded CE offering, and secured a $25
million credit line with PNC Financial Services to help refinance existing debt
and fuel future growth.
"Despite an economic environment
that has weighed heavy on so many retailers, Ritz & Wolf Camera & Image
is poised to succeed," said president Stephen LaMastra in a statement released
on the eve of the PMA 2010.
"We have come out of the challenges
of the past two years with renewed vigor and focus and with a clear imaging
strategy for a new retail landscape," continued LaMastra, formerly president of
Wolf Camera. "We will continue to lead this company, its stakeholders and our
customers through these tough economic times, and we are confident that a
bright future is ahead."
His optimism is based partly on the
outlook for the imaging category, which is up double digits industrywide since
the chain re-emerged last summer, the company said.
Ritz & Wolf is also encouraged by
a surge in online sales during the holiday season, when its print services
site, Ritzpix.com, was up better than 30 percent. Indeed, the company's photo
books, calendar and greeting card business is up even higher than overall
imaging, it reported, and the trend is expected to continue well into 2010.
To further bolster the business,
Ritz & Wolf has expanded its CE assortment to include home theater, PCs,
video gaming and portable devices, and became an authorized Verizon Wireless
retailer. Explained LaMastra, "The Verizon Wireless partnership signals an
increased commitment to delivering the instant gratification of memory capture.
With the explosion of imaging through smartphones and cellphones, and our
leadership in the imaging industry, the Verizon relationship is a natural
extension of our brand and our strategy."
To help keep it on firm financial
footing, the chain secured the credit facility with PNC in November;
restructured deals with such key vendors as Nikon, Olympus,
Panasonic and Sony; and renegotiated leases and formed "strategic partnerships"
with landlords - which allowed it to re-open five locations in December, for a
total of nearly 300 stores in 36 states.
"With the legacy of our brand and
our drive for success, we believe we can accomplish what we have set forth to
do and make this company the premier destination for America's imaging needs," LaMastra