The Ritz Camera chain, that began as an Atlantic City portrait studio over 90 years ago and grew to become the most recognizable name in photo specialty retail, is about to be sold.
After filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection back in February of this year the chain recently reported that the chain is simply unable to raise the cash it needs to operate through the summer.
Ritz Camera CEO David Ritz did say in a recent statement that he is confident the chain will continue to stay in business as the company is in current negotiations with two potential buyers.
He added that the decision to proceed with asset sale "is a normal and customary means of facilitating an exit from Chapter 11 bankruptcy," and that the asset sale and upcoming auction on July 20 is simply the next step toward completing its Chapter 11 proceeding.
Reaction to the news around the photo industry ranged from feelings of inevitability to sadness.
“I was a frequent visitor to their Long Island location in Carle Place before it shut down and have also shopped in their Manhattan location as well,” began Les Wynne, a graphic designer from Babylon, New York. “I have to say you could kind of sense things weren’t going well over the course of the last year as customer service wasn’t always what it could have been and the Long Island location wasn’t stocking a very wide array of product anymore.”
Retail analyst Lauren Sosik said the news simply adds to the retail casualties that are mounting during the current recession.
“To say this news is unfortunate would be a major understatement,” Sosik began. “What the Ritz family was able to do with that business was incredible and I think the imaging industry has to be reacting with great surprise that their run appears to be coming to an end. It’s really a double whammy within the photo industry as they as a whole are still struggling to get a grip on changing consumer behavior with regard to imaging on top of battling a major economic slowdown. That’s a deadly combo.”
Former New York-based photo retailer Richard Lewin said something far beyond store fronts are being lost as the photo specialty world continues to shrink.
“At this rate consumers will soon have nowhere to go to really learn about the art of photography,” Lewin said. “The photo specialist has always been the one place an amateur shooter could go to chat about how to take great picture and really grow into this hobby. It’s the potential disappearance of that passion that really saddens me. That’s what made this industry tick.”
If the effort to sell the company is not successful, according to the filing, Ritz is seeking permission to liquidate and close by July 24, to avoid paying $3 million in rent going into September.
We’ll take a closer look at the effect the potential sale of the Ritz Camera chain will have on the imaging industry in an upcoming issue of Picture Business.