Beltsville, Md. – Ritz Camera and Image, the country’s largest digital imaging specialty chain, has been parceled off at a bankruptcy auction to a distributor and two liquidators.
C&A Marketing, a Ridgefield Park, N.J., distributor of digital cameras, camcorders and accessories, acquired some of the company’s stores, trademarks, Ritz Interactive websites, technology and its RitzPix online photofinishing business.
The balance of Ritz’s assets, including all inventory and a distribution center, were acquired by liquidators Hilco Merchant Resources and Gordon Brothers Retail Partners.
Ritz, led by chairman/CEO David Ritz, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in June for the second time in three years, and was put on the auction block on Sept. 6 after it was unable to find a buyer that would keep the company intact.
A federal bankruptcy court in Wilmington, Del., identified the winning bidders on Sept. 10.
Top creditors and their claims include Nikon, $2.4 million; Sony, $1.5 million; Fuji Photo North America, $632,347; Yesvideo, $558,578; Fuji Photo Film USA, $505,785; Olympus, $468,962; and Sakar International, $414,730.
C&A, which is also the Polaroid licensee for instant digital cameras and accessories, said it plans to keep five to seven flagship Ritz stores open along with the RitzPix operation, and will also maintain the chain’s Wolf Camera, Camera World, Photo Alley, Kits Cameras and The Camera Shop businesses.
C&A co-owner and chief financial officer Harry Klein said the distributor will continue Ritz’s tradition of consultative sales and a customer-centric focus while “updating the retail mix to reflect current market dynamics.”
“In today’s marketplace, it is essential for retailers to strike the right balance with their brick-and-mortar and online retail presence. This is particularly true in the imaging channel, as consultative sales and interaction are essential to the customer experience,” he said.
Ritz Camera was founded by Benjamin Ritz in 1918 as an Atlantic City portrait studio. At its peak in the early 2000s his scion David operated more than 1,000 stores in the U.S. and stood as the No. 1 photo retailer in the country with a presence in 45 states and Washington D.C.
The company grew largely on the strength of its high-margin photofinishing business and an expanded national footprint following the 2001 acquisition of No. 2 imaging chain Wolf Camera — founded by Ritz’s cousin Chuck Wolf — and the buyout of Camera World in 2002.
But by 2009 the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and shut more than 400 of its 700 remaining locations amid declines in its camera and boating businesses.
It was later reacquired and restructured by Ritz, who renamed it Ritz & Wolf Camera & Image, re-opened shuttered stores, and diversified the mix by adding home theater, PCs, gaming, wireless, and ancillary categories like photo books, calendars and greeting cards.
The company ranked 36th on TWICE’s Top 100 CE Retailers Report with $277 million in sales last year, down 7.4 percent from 2010. It closed five more stores in 2010, leaving it with 279 locations last year.