September 30, 2011, 12:00 AM

The summer sun sets on once-starry e-retailers Ritz Interactive and Borders

Down from its peak of more than $100 million in annual sales a few years ago, camera and boating supplies retailer Ritz Interactive withered under the down economy and filed for bankruptcy protection in August. The summer was also tough on Borders Group, which received only $15.8 million through an auction sale of its intellectual property.

A down economy has proved too much for Ritz Interactive, the niche online retailer of cameras, marine supplies and other products. With listed assets of $809,192 and liabilities of about $7.2 million, Ritz filed for bankruptcy protection Aug. 23 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California.

As recently as 2007, Ritz Interactive was recording annual web sales of $111 million and operating more than a dozen niche e-commerce sites, including its flagship, RitzCamera.com.

The retailer owes vendors such as American Express and Notions Marketing Corp. about $434,000 and $104,000, respectively, according to the claims of creditors in the bankruptcy filing. Ritz Interactive also owes Federal Express about $103,000, Google about $45,000 and affiliate network Commission Junction about $40,000, according to the filing.

In court papers Ritz Interactive says its revenue began to drop in 2009 because of the severe recession. Over time Ritz Interactive also faced a reduced inventory supply for cameras from manufacturers such as Canon USA. The recession also caused Ritz Interactive to close down BoatersWorld.com, which at one point generated annual web sales of about $13.5 million.

The summer also was tough on Borders Group, which filed for bankruptcy earlier this year. With its intellectual property, including Borders.com, sold off at auction, the retailer received only $15.8 million. Among the winning bidders was rival bookseller Barnes & Noble Inc.

mark@verticalwebmedia.com

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