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Is the new Ritz camera chain now 50% owned by Nikon?

I already reported the news that David Ritz bought Ritz Camera stores at bankruptcy auction. At the same time I received the first report on this topic and initially did not pay much attention to it. Then a NikonRumors reader wrote this comment on one of the posts:

"A friend of mine, who works at a local Wolf Camera, tells me that on the morning of July 20th his store-and every other store in the company!-was instructed to pack up and return  ALL Nikon cameras and accessories (though, apparently binoculars and the like were excepted) via the fastest UPS overnight shipping option available- to Ritz's Topeka, KA warehouse. NOT Nikon's N.A. Warehouse. His store manager also mentioned that during the conference call (in which the Nikon recall was announce)  their district manager implied that Nikon had stepped up and saved the company!"

Today I noticed a similar thread on the PentaxForum:

"Just spoke with a fellow Pentaxian that is a manager at a local Wolf/Ritz store here in Georgia and asked what was going on and wheres the bargains! His response"Ritz/Wolf Camera is now 1/2 owned by Nikon" he went on to say that "no bargains like last time, in fact we had to send all Nikon product back to headquarters for inventory then will ship back to stores....we have no Nikon in his store" as we spoke...."

I guess Nikon will have to disclose any investment in Ritz in their quarterly statements - until then, this remains a rumor.

Reminder: Nikon was among the largest unsecured creditors to Ritz camera with $26.6 million. Maybe they just got a part of the pie in exchange for the debt.

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  • Anonymous

    it has begun

    • Anonymous

      OMGWTF?!

      • Anonymous

        Yeah, STFU! L O L! Oh, sorry…

      • http://www.flickr.com/photos/friedtoast/ Fried Toast

        Y’forgot BBQ.

      • Anonymous

        I said ****, not that. Stop editing my comments!!!

        NR Admin: no I deleted your comment – no cursing here please

  • Anonymous

    Send all the nikon stuff back to the warehouse for inventory, just to be shipped back? That doesn’t seem to make sense. Can’t the store employees be trusted to take an inventory in the store?

    • Marc W.

      Obviously not since they got in such a bad situation in the first place!

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/friedtoast/ Fried Toast

      Doesn’t make the least bit o’ sense to me, *especially* given the extreme cost that would be incurred via UPS Next Day Air. That’s a LOT of money.

      Definitely need more information to really say what’s going on.

    • http://www.CameraTribe.com David

      I heard from a client in the legal field the debt swap with Nikon is probably what sealed the deal for exiting BK.

  • Anonymous

    I visited Ritz Camera in Bellevue, WA just this week and noticed immediately that the entire Nikon display section was empty. When I asked to see a D300 and D90, a female sales associate behind the counter told me that all Nikon products had been shipped back to Nikon (though, i imagine some warehouse for invetory and reallocation). She explained, “check back next week and we should be restocked.” She then went on to explain the bankruptcy auction and alluded that Nikon now had some interest in the company. I took this information at face value, knowing full well that more information would be had at the upper-management layer.

  • low

    this basically means nikons will only be sold at ritz

    • MW

      what about the ones they are selling elseware, like Costco, would they cease to sell there?

    • Anonymous

      For Nikon to select a single channel for selling their consumer products would be downright rediculous, from both sales and marketing perspectives. However, to gain partial ownership of a large chain like Ritz and to use it as a platform for the Nikon brand… that would make just a little more sense.

    • Mark

      No, Nikon would not cut off other options that can sell their product. Coolpix and at least lower end Nikon DSLR need to be in places like Bestbuy, the few remaining indepedents, and the big vendors like Calumet, B&H, and Adoramma.

    • Anonymous

      Of course not, ridiculous assumption. It’s just a dream for any manufacturer to also own a nation-wide outlet chain. Nikons will be pushed big time in Ritz stores now. Hopefully that also means more decent prices and better coverage of the line-up in stores but I must be dreaming.

    • Chris Lilley

      “this basically means nikons will only be sold at ritz”
      No reason whatsoever to infer such a thing. In case you were unaware, Ritz isn’t an international dealer :) and it unlikely that Nikon would restrict themselves to a single chain in the US, too – especially for the more upmarket stuff.

      It will be interesting to see if Ritz has a lower presence for competing brands, going forward.

      It sounds like they are just recouping some of their debt. I would guess too that its not a major stake, otherwise they would rebrand the chain as “Nikon Store” in the way that Sony and Apple have done.

  • jettblack

    Anytime I have been to a Ritz, they have hardly had any Nikon stuff other than point and shoots anyway. I find this hard to believe. Not even Nikon could save this sorry outfit. Surely there would be better ways to spend their money.

    • Anonymous

      Well, actually, this IS a great way to spend money. Just think of it, now there will be plenty of Nikons to sell in Ritz and very few Canons/etc… MAJOR move from Nikon.

  • RobertD

    I think this is very interesting.
    I ordered my Nikon 35mm f/1.8 from Ritz out of California. It was the only place I could find it.
    When I received the tracking number, it had been shipped from Topeka, Kansas, by Federal Express. That’s fine with me, because I live in Wichita, Kansas. It was here the next day. I have not seen the 35mm f1.8 available from anywhere since. Go figure.
    It’ll be interesting to see just happens. I know Ritz Camera closed its doors in Town West shopping mall, Wichita, Kansas several years ago.

  • http://www.calvintang.com Calvin

    I don’t know why Nikon would want to get into a dying business long-term, like owning retail stores. I can think of reasons they’d want to bail out Ritz though, being one of the largest creditors affected by the camera chain’s bankruptcy.

    Perhaps a deal has been struck whereby Nikon assisted in a bailout involving warrants or other conditional forms of equity transfer, simply to try to avoid taking a huge loss if the retailer failed completely, TARP being the recent inspiration for such a structured deal. Just speculation though. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

    • Mark

      Having some good retail store options can be vital. The Apple Store have played a major role in Apple’s success.

      • bloop

        yes, but apple had a plan for retail business. nikon just had this dropped in their lap. nikon’s interest, if any, in ritz camera, does not necessarily imply retail success on nikon’s part.

  • Zoetmb

    I don’t think this means that Nikon holds 50% of Ritz. I think that Nikon made some kind of deal that recovers more of their assets than would have been recovered under a strict bankruptcy even if they were a secured creditor. If there was an investment in Ritz, it would be far smaller than 50%.

    Even if true, it DOES NOT MEAN that only Ritz will sell Nikon. (The paranoia.) Apple has its own stores and even they also sell through many other dealers (B&H and J&R among them.)

    I can understand an inventory, but I don’t know why the cameras would have been shipped to a Ritz warehouse and then to Nikon only for Nikon to presumably return the inventory to Ritz…that part doesn’t make sense to me. And I don’t think Ritz had a lot of Nikon stock anyway – just because they owe Nikon $26 million doesn’t mean that inventory was sitting in stores – it was already sold. One of the reasons Ritz had to declare bankruptcy was because they had no more credit and couldn’t buy new inventory.

    And can people stop posting “It has begun”? It’s not cute anymore.

    • fotosniper

      well the Ritz by my house had several d300s a couple of d700s and 14-24 a 70t200, 10,5, and a whole slew of other things. and BOOM it was all gone. I agree that nikon is just trying to reclaim some of the loss. no more nikons are going Ritz. i think the store is going down hard. adorama and B&h will be the only camera stores in the future.

      • Jon Paul

        Did you say D700s? Admin, take note! ;-)

        • http://nikonrumors.com/ [NR] admin

          :) – this is actually the ultimate camera I am waiting for: D700 + video and a second SD/CF card slot. Do not need 24 MP, 12 MP + video is good enough for me.

          • Mark

            [NR] admin,

            I am basically with you except, if the current D700 drops in price when the newer version comes out then I will be very tempted to get it.

            Oh and I would not mind a few more megapixels.

            : )

          • Dr. Marm

            I too am waiting for the next D700. Why do you not want more pixels? Should I just wait for the D700X D800, whatever comes up?

            Just looking for input and truing to wait for more pixels = D700…etc.!

          • anon

            I would like see D3 replacement with 16-18Mpx, similar frame rate, same or better great ISO performance, and it would probably be the last DSLR i’d ever buy. Don’t want super high resolution, because the huge files are going to be a pain to store and deal with. I’m annoyed having to backup 12 Mpx images from my d300 to DVDs let alone 24.5 Mpx images. Totally indifferent to movie mode. Not that it’s not good quality. I just hate holding the camera and trying to actually shoot good movie. Maybe it’s better if you have shoulder mount type of thing for it.

          • Jon Paul

            It seems like a good move to release a D700s. Most of the work will be done already for the D300s, and they could sell it for a bit more than the D700 and people would buy it (I’m another, admin).

        • Anonymous

          D700s, as in “more than one D700″. Luckily, there’s one person at least who knows some grammar and doesn’t write D700’s… yipey.

    • http://micahmedia.com Micah

      It has ended!

    • xvx

      It has begun

  • http://www.hayphoto.ca HayPhoto

    It could be that as part of the bankruptcy Nikon is being returned all current Nikon Stock as partial payment of its debts…

    • mantom

      I would bet to say that all the stock had to go to Kanas for inventory so the courts could put a specific number on Ritz’s debt to Nikon. Those numbers would then be factored into any new agreements to help Nikon reclaim it’s money. The inventory had to go to a single location for impartiality so there isn’t any shipping or counting games going on behind the scenes to tilt the numbers in favor of one side or the other.

  • Anonymous

    There is more than one way to save a company. For example giving them credit terms when they don’t otherwise deserve it… etc. Nikon might be working with Ritz on a long term solution that will net Nikon a better deal in the long run than just kissing Ritz goodbyah!

  • Eric

    I was told that old Nikon stock was shipped back to get Ritz a better deal on the credit for the equipment. As far as anything official, absolutely NOTHING was told to the employees other than that the stock had to be overnighted back to the warehouse. The good news is that Nikon products are confirmed to be back in stock by the end of the week.

  • Ed

    It sounds strange to me. I have been expecting that someone will buy Ritz and operate a web store in the future, perhaps with a handful of flagship stores in larger cities. They need to do something drastic if they are to keep going, and, like GM, they don’t seem to get it.

    It would be nice if they started selling only quality merchandise rather than pushing their Quantaray brand. Based on their past performance, unless Nikon is actually influenceing policy, we will continue to see them pushing it.

  • PJS

    Seems to me that if all of your inventory was in one location (Topeka) then you could sell all of it via the company (Ritz) internet site. Keep it out of the stores, sell at a discount online. That way Nikon recovers their investment with Ritz.

  • NikoDoby

    That would be so cool if Ritz became !Super Nikon Fun Fun Centers! :) Wait didn’t Nikon use to have retail stores? They shut them down sometime ago right? Or I’m I just remembering some dream I had? Admin I like your idea of the ultimate camera. Count me in!

  • arz

    hmmm, imagine Ritz stores will be renamed “The Nikon Stores”, right next to “Nike Store”?

  • jsa
  • http://www.echenique.com Carlos Echenique

    I can confirm the lack of Nikon kit at my local Wolf Camera (the one that survived) as well. I agree with Nikon Guy, a D700s would be perfect for my kind of photography and give me an easy way to add Wifi support via an Eye-Fi Pro card instead of some overpriced geegaw messing up the ergonomics.

  • cameronboyle

    I TOLD YOU! :P!

    • http://nikonrumors.com/ [NR] admin

      I know, but at the same time I contacted my Ritz source and the official press release came up and there was no word of Nikon’s involvement.

  • Incognito

    I work at ritz camera and I thought it was very very strange for nikon to ask for all their equipment to be shipped to a central warehouse. However, no one knows anything including my manager. Heck, I think I keep up with Nikon and Ritz’s business more because I”m a professional shooting nikon and happen to work at ritz part time. I was told casually though that ritz spent something close to a milion dollars just on overnight shipping of all the cameras! That has to be warranted for I would think….I also heard the garbage about ritz getting a better deal on the credit they had with Nikon….maybe Nikon was charging them more the last few months after the Chapter 11 declaration, who knows.

    Here is an article I found while watching the court cases: http://www.law360.com/registrations/user_registration?article_id=112950&concurrency_check=false

    I didn’t want to enter my business email in for spam reasons but I’d love to read why Canon was so up in arms about the buy out. It could make sense if they knew Nikon was coming out much more ahead than Canon in terms of recovering some of the loss from Ritz.

    There are some interesting threads over at DPR on this topic and I think there is something to be said about Mr. Ritz being able to start another corporation and buy the bankrupt company for 33 million…..surely Ritz camera, even if failing, is worth way more than that if they can turn it around with 150 solid stores. Someone is profiting from this situation..

    • Anonymous

      Oh like Circuit City had 650 stores worth WAY more than… oh, wait, they sucked too. Ritz needs to die.

      Nikon is really just saying, “bitch, give me my money back.” Nothing to see here, move along.

  • John Dosy-Doe

    if Nikon does indeed own part of Ritz, it’ll be idiotic for them to sell exclusively through the store, but it does mean an opportunity to showcase Nikon product in stores that are frequented mostly by consumers. They will be able to push more Nikon products and possibly increase profit margins by providing RItz a lower cost for Nikon products, similar to mega-stores like B&H et al. Most of the beginners I know that have opted to start with a Canon D-SLR did so because Canon’s camera’s tend to be slightly cheaper. By tightening this Gap Nikon could be preparing to take more of the market share on the entry-level market.

  • Chris Lilley

    One reason for shipping of all inventory could be to ensure that Ritz gets the low end consumer stuff while any higher end items are sold to other stores that have more traffic in the midrange and high end items.

  • Dan

    So is Nikon going the Apple route and going to direct retail?

    What’s next I’m a Nikon and I’m a Canon/Pentax/Olympus/Sony Alpha ads?

  • Chimphappyhour

    Where’s Topeka, KA? Is this someplace outside of the United States? (Kansas is KS ;) )

  • http://jarviestudios.com/blog Jarvie

    Maybe they’ll rename the Ritz chain stores “the Nikon store” ;) haha

    What will the Nikon store be like you ask:
    it’ll be a bright shiny store with hipsters running the place and a big table at the back called something akin to the Genius bar. They’ll serve cappuccinos and have a hundred of the same product throughout the store to make it look like they actually have a lot of options.

    Perhaps it’s actually a good move because they’ll have rumors blog (haha) and when they have an announcement the whole world will report. They’ll announce something and at the Nikon store the next week they’ll have the products ready to sell. Of course that also means there is a hundred people lined up who have camped in front of the store that night.
    Am I missing anything?

  • David

    By the way, Kansas is KS, not KA. :-)

  • Anonymous

    I know this is off-topic, but did the press conference in the UK go down today as planned?

  • Jon in Chicago

    A few years back Ritz got into some kind of dustup with Olympus and every store was told to box up every Olympus product and send it back. I never got the full story on why but Ritz didn’t sell Oly stuff for many years after that.

    On the current Ritz v. Nikon thing my guess is that Nikon is basically repoing its unsold gear to sell it back to Ritz in an effort to recoup the debt held by the company. While it is expensive to overnight stuff it is more expensive to never get paid for product.

    I agree that it is weird that David Ritz ran the company into the ground and can still come up with money to buy back the company once all of the debt is written off. Maybe the money he used to buy the company back should have been used to pay off the debtors to the company in the first place? Man I wish I could afford good lawyers!

  • Ken Elliott

    It makes sense for Nikon to take part ownership in the new Ritz as a way to get paid for all the inventory, and it makes sense to me for Nikon to have a physical count with no possibility of shenanigans. But (like Apple) this could also be a move that lets Nikon put a well-trained sales force out there that knows Nikon inside and out. At all the other stores, they promote the camera that gives them the best profits, and the staff is spread thin across all models. But if the new Ritz has a Nikon-trained staff, with photography training seminars (featuring Nikon), and sells Nikon pro gear, we might have a game changer. Perhaps a Ritz/NPS linkup that lets pros go to Ritz and get rush NPS service, loaners or rentals. Like the Apple store, this could really be a big booster for Nikon.

    Or I could be completely wrong – again.

  • NikonLover

    So are we still looking for the D300s and D3000 release tomorrow Nikon Rumors ?

    • Anonymous

      “I have a confirmation on the Nikon press conference in the UK: the magic will happen on Wednesday, July 29th 2009 at 2:30 pm in the Charlotte Street Hotel in London. This is one of those 100% sure rumors. Soon I will have the event info for few other countries.”

      Being it is a 100% rumor, it should have already happened, right? ;)

      http://nikonrumors.com/2009/07/09/details-on-nikons-press-conference-in-the-uk.aspx

      • NikonLover

        Ok, so what time will we see the cameras on the Nikon U.S.A. site ?

        Oh, and thanks for the response !

        • http://nikonrumors.com/ [NR] admin

          tonight 11:00 pm or midnight, unless Nikon decides to change its routine

      • http://nikonrumors.com/ [NR] admin

        This event probably did happened today – my guess is that everyone had to sign a NDA until the official announcement tomorrow/tonight. I will check. There is always confusion +/- 1 day because of the time differences.

    • http://nikonrumors.com/ [NR] admin

      yes, absolutely

      • NikonLover

        Ok thanks ! I really do appreciate your concern ! I have so much trust and everything built up for you guys, because like 3 days before the announcement of the D5000, you were already leaking the ” Real ” images of it, and just letting us know all about it before it was coming out and I admire you guys for that ! Keep up the good work !

  • Anonymous

    My buddy is a long time employee at Ritz. It does appear the Nikon has come to the rescue.

  • Anonymous

    @Admin, are there any websites down (because of the possible annoucement tomorrow)
    Or did Nikon break with this habit?

  • Mark

    I bought a nikon 50mm 1.8 last week at Inkleys (ritz in Utah) and the guy said it was their last one

  • James

    The rumour mill is working overtime.

    What likely happened here is Nikon consigned the goods to Ritz. So when Ritz had to declare financial difficulties, Nikon simply recalled their stock, since Ritz didn’t pay for it it didn’t belong to them. Shipping it back to a warehouse is a way to get a handle on all of Nikon inventory and prepare to return it to Nikon. If it stayed there then Ritz likely came up with some sort of assurances it would not be sacrificed in a chapter 11 scenario.

  • Nigel

    I have never been to any Ritz or Wolf that had anything in Stock, always heard “We can order that” Well so can I frm B&H and get it a lot faster. If you do not have the goods in stock when the customer walks in the store you might as well close the door. And they did. Goodbye!

  • Incognito

    another thing I was thinking about is since the shipping would have cost a ton, I bet Ritz did it under the old chapter 11 Ritz Camera and just wrote all that off. The shipping alone could have been $300,000 – $500,000 since it was all over night and 70+ pounds per box.

  • Anonymous

    I ordered a D90 on July 25 at a local Wolf Camera Store. It was to shipped to the store. The store is now closed. Anyone know who I could call for information? The store ordered it from Ritz Express.

  • Chris

    Here’s an article about the purchase in the Washington Post. It doesn’t mention Nikon as an investor but does mention that Mr. Ritz had “a team of investors” to help:

    –quote–
    Last week, David Ritz, chief executive of Ritz Camera for nearly 30 years, and a team of investors bought the company’s assets and formed a new entity, intent on figuring out how a photography retailer can make money in the digital age.

    –quote–

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/31/AR2009073103886.html

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