Ritz Camera & Image, the Beltsville-based photography retailer, said Friday it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, marking the second time the storied enterprise has taken such action.
According to a release announcing the filing, the company is evaluating which of its 265 stores to close to create a more efficient national chain. Ritz is the largest specialty photo retailer in the country, selling a wide selection of cameras as well as producing calendars, memory books and DVDs using digital photos and video.
Just two years ago, the company, previously known as Ritz Camera Centers, emerged from bankruptcy protection with less than half of its 800 stores. The company received a fresh capital injection from private equity firm Transcom Capital in September.
“Between 2010 and 2011, the company made substantial progress in reducing its losses and was on track to earning a profit in 2012. However, to achieve our strategic vision of a super-store chain offering unique value-added services ... it became necessary to implement this vision through a Chapter 11 filing,” said Marc Weinsweig, Ritz Camera’s chief restructuring officer, in the release.
In its heyday, Ritz, founded in 1936, ran a lucrative empire built on camera sales and film processing. But as digital photography became more ubiquitous, the company faltered, watching profits wane and debts mount to more than $60 million by 2009.
At the time, David Ritz, whose uncle founded the company, assembled a team of investors to buy the company’s assets at auction. He then broadened the service offering to include photo imaging, and appeared to be turning around operations.
But in the age of Amazon, Wal-Mart and Target, analysts said it has become increasingly hard for the Ritz Cameras of the world to compete.
Though for a time, specialty photo retailers were leading the camera industry in growth, with sales up 6 percent for the 12 months ending July, according to research firm NPD Group. Sales have since bottomed out as overall consumer spending has declined.