The Rise and Fall of Ritz Camera


By Andrew Hudson Published: June 26, 2012 Updated: March 25, 2016

At its peak, Ritz Camera ruled the mall-based camera business with over 1,200 stores. Now there may be one-tenth of that. Here are the details.

The Rise and Fall of Ritz Camera
Year# of
Stores
Event
19180Benjamin Ritz opens a portrait studio in the Ritz Hotel Atlantic City, New Jersey.
19361Benjamin Ritz and his brother Edward open a photo processing lab in Washington, D.C.
1974Edward Ritz’s nephew, Chuck Wolf, founds competitor Wolf Camera by acquiring and renaming nine Ritz Camera stores. By 1990, Wolf Camera has 100 stores.
1978Edward Ritz’s son, David Ritz, “took the leadership of Ritz Camera in the 1970s and made the company his own with an aggressive acquisition strategy.
1980s100David Ritz “grows the company to nearly 100 stores by the mid 1980s.”
1986Fox Photo, another competitor, is bought by Kodak. The stores are sold in 1987, bought in 1991 by CPI, and acquired again by Kodak.
1987Ritz Camera acquires Boaters World, a marine and boat supply store, later blamed for the 2009 bankruptcy.
1990Wolf Camera has 100 stores.
1996Ritz Camera Centers purchases Inkely’s Camera of Salt Lake City, UT.
1997+140Ritz Camera Centers acquires Kits Camera, Inc. (140 stores) of Seattle, WA.
1998+83Ritz Camera Centers acquires photographic stores from Fuji (83 stores).
1998 Jul810Fox Photo (449 stores) is bought by Wolf Camera (317 stores) from Eastman Kodak for $64.5 million. The purchase, however, is later called “>a mistake“ by Chuck Wolf. “The acquisition places Wolf just below Ritz Camera Centers … [which] has about 810 locations.”
1999+72Ritz Camera Centers purchases The Camera Shop, Inc. (72 stores).
1999Ritz Interactive founded as a separate e-commerce business by David Ritz.
2001 JunWolf Camera Inc. (538 stores) >files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
2001 Oct900Ritz Camera (900 stores) buys Wolf Camera (385 stores) out of bankruptcy for $84.7 million
2002 Nov1,200+Ritz Camera is #180 on Forbes’ list of largest private companies. “Ritz now has over 1,200 stores in 48 states and estimated revenues of $1.34 billion” according to Forbes.com
20051,200+Ritz Camera [is] the largest retail camera and photo chain in the United States, with more than 1,200 locations in 45 states and the District of Columbia” according to a company press release.
2006Ritz Camera Centers creates RitzPix.com, an online imaging store.
2008Losses at Boaters World loss imperil Ritz Camera. “When gas prices hit $4 a gallon, boating died.”
20081,200Ritz Camera Centers claims to have nearly 1,200 camera store locations.
2009 Feb800Ritz Camera Centers, Inc. (the camera-store chain) declares bankruptcy.
2009 Apr400Ritz Camera Centers closes 300 stores.
2009 Jul375Ritz Camera exits bankruptcy protection in a $33 million buyout by RCI, a group including Ritz Camera President David Ritz. The company is renamed Ritz Camera & Image, LLC.
2010300+Ritz & Wolf Camera & Image … operates more than 300 stores” according to a press release.
2011 AugRitz Interactive (the separate e-commerce business) files for bankruptcy.
2012 FebRitz Camera & Image, LLC. buys Ritz Interactive, including the RitzCamera.com, WolfCamera.com, CameraWorld.com and PhotoAlley.com e-commerce web sites. The price is the subordination of the $3.5 million Ritz Interactive owes Ritz Camera plus cash to make payments to creditors.
2012 Jun265Ritz Camera & Image, LLC. files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
2012 Sep167Ritz Camera & Image, LLC. is due to be auctioned.

David Ritz

“We’re not a camera store anymore — we’re an image store. We sell all products that allow you to either take, share, create or view your images.”
David Ritz, Washington PostDecember 2009.

Source: Washington Post, Reuters, Wikipedia, Georgia Bankruptcy Blog. Images from Ritz Camera & Image, Wikimedia, RitzCamera

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Comments


Reply by Anonymous

February 6, 2017

I worked for them from 1983 to 1991, most as a store manager and met some terrific people. Both fellow employees as well as customers of mine. Ritz did pay peanut wages and expected a lot for what they paid. I left my store manager job for another retail commission job and instantly gave myself a $13,000 a year without the management headaches and long hours. They certainly didn’t know how to treat their employees the way they should have.


Reply by Anonymous

December 11, 2016

I met David Ritz. A friend of mine was a district manager and then a semi-regional manager. I was a doctor and thought he was the most arrogant man I had ever met.


Reply by Anonymous

November 15, 2016

I originally worked for Wolf Camera. It was a great company. Chuck Wolf would come and personally visit each store and shake the hands of his employees, thanking them for their hard work. The problem is, with the CPI/FoxPhoto acquisition, Wolf grew his company too large, too quickly and his idiot cousin (I think Ritz was his cousin) bailed him out.

As soon as we were acquired, things changed. I know someone mentioned Quantaray products previously. God, they were awful. Poorly packaged and cheaply made. The goal seemed to focus less on helping the customer find a product that would assist them in achieving the best photo-taking experience and more on how much we could sell them. Digital cameras were initially removed from our stores and didn’t get replaced until it was beyond obvious that the industry was moving from celluloid film to digital media. By then, a lot of our customers were fed up with the lack of service and migrated to WalMart.

Additionally, we went from a modern (for 1999/2000) point of sale system that was Windows based and utilized thermal printing technology to an archaic DOS based system that was counter-intuitive and was "down" more than it worked.

I never got to meet David Ritz during my time with the company; he continued to send Chuck Wolf to our region for the meet and greets. You could tell Chuck was not happy with what had happened to his company, and a couple of months before I finished my time with Ritz, he bowed out as well.

I harbor no ill will toward this company. I just find it sad that they could have been and (most likely would still be) a major player in the digital imaging industry with just a little foresight and a little less greed.


Reply by Anonymous

January 9, 2016

I worked for Boaters World. He made all his mistakes by trusting the wrong people. David only wanted people who would kiss his backside. That is how he lost everything.


Reply by Anonymous

December 20, 2015

I worked for Ritz Camera for 10 years in their corporate office and stores. David Ritz was not only extremely arrogant he was just as greedy. Looking back at my successful 20+ years in retail with other companies he may have been the worst retail leader in the world. He lacked vision (beyond his own greed of course) and development of people. If he had spent more time developing talent and leadership within the organization the company may just have thrived. The world moved on and the draconian leadership of David Ritz stayed behind leaving the company behind. It wasn’t new technology that brought Ritz Camera down it was lack of leadership from David Ritz that brought it down and he has no one to blame but himself. I wouldn’t trust David Ritz to run a lemonade stand.


Reply by Lydia Wallace

January 7, 2015

My Husband Charles Wallace and I, Lydia Wallace have purchased several items from Wolf/Ritz Camera. We have usually received good customer service.

We ordered a Polaroid PL-150DN Bounce “Dua” Flash+Built In LED Video Light for Nikon camera. We received a order number 100001087 on November 24, 2014. We never received the flash and was looking forward to using it on Christmas Day. We have called and emailed several times every week since November 24, 2014 concerning the delivery status of this order and we were promised we would received it in two weeks. Every time we emailed or called we received the same answer “two weeks”.

We wanted to cancel the order after two, three and four weeks went by, but customer service assured us the flash was on order and we would receive it any day. Well we finally received an email this week saying the order was going to be cancelled because the flash was not available.

I work for the Port of Houston Authority in Houston, Texas and my husband works for AT&T. If we were to perform such poor customer service we would be fired. I am very disappointed and I am going to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and let everyone at Port of Houston Authority, AT&T Telephone Company and all our friends and family not to do business with this company. I will also warn our large church family at Seabrook United Methodist Church about the bad service or really no service we received. I am also going to post a Blog on all the websites I can find, including Facebook letting Buyers beware of Wolf/Ritz Camera’s bad business practice.

Sincerely,

Charles and Lydia G. Wallace


Reply by Anonymous

December 28, 2014

I too worked for Ritz after the company I worked for was acquired by them. They immediately changed a well-run profitable company that cared about it’s people into a sleazy cheap company that abused it’s customer and people. Davis Ritz may very well be the most arrogant person I have ever met. They eliminated retirement program for our people (401k) all the while flying around in his corporate jet. I am glad he got what he deserved.


Reply by

December 8, 2013

I hate these people. Morons about business. Ruined a good thing.


Reply by Big R

September 7, 2013

Thank you David Ritz. Nice to know you took over the company and after 100 years of operation you run it into the ground.


Reply by

November 16, 2012

Yep, there was sooo much BS going one in those stores... all those sales challenges that, with a wink, encouraged cheating and basically theft to pad the numbers of district managers. I worked at several of those stores and of all of them there was only one that I would let touch my film... that’s sad.

Sadly, your story is not unique in the Ritz / Wolf empire. We were paid fastfood wages but expected to deliver world class service. Looking back on all of it I really have a hard time not picturing a paper hat on my head and uttering "want fries with that?"

I will say this, with the exception of a few, I worked with some really great people...who were all as equally miss treated by district and regional managers for the sake of their numbers based bonus systems.

David Ritz...pfft. FULL STEAM AHEAD! Digital? What? people will always want prints if we get our staff to make them feel like idiots for not getting them.. I like boating so lets buy a boating chain too. ...and then people can take pictures of their boats and their friends with sweaters tied around their necks (because thats what you do on boats) and get them developed at our other stores...it will be perfect. What? Don’t you have a boat? ...What an idiot.


Reply by Shane B

September 17, 2012

No your certainly not a camera store anymore. I worked for this company for 14 years and I can tell you both employees and customers were treated like second class citizens. They capped my income off at 10.00 an hour after 14 years. Customers were pressured and forced to buy useless warranties and because they owed Nikon and canon a great deal of money for product they received and never paid for we were forced to sell quanta ray products (ritz) that were cheaply made you could find better at the 99 cent store and after giving 100 percent everyday fixing their refurbished photo machines and selling their junk merchandise they were so considerate with me the first time they filed bankruptcy that as I arrived at work the last day the district manager was there called me into the back room and told me to hand my store keys in and get out this is 2 weeks after another associate defecated all over the restroom on my day off and I got written up for it for not cleaning it up the next day on my shift and as the manager handed me the write up that I refused to sign he stood there along with the associate who made the terrible mess and both laughed at me. That,s when I found out the district manager told a few associates to find ( things) on me and get rid of me one way or another, and the poor few customers that they still had got robbed so badly in so many ways. Well it looks like karma has stricken you down. I just feel sorry for the people who bought those useless warranties sometimes for hundreds of dollars and will never get their money back and are left with a useless piece of paper. So long ritz this has been a long time coming and I can’t say I’m one bit sad. Wait let me think about it ............. Nope nothing no tears sorry .


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