I'm considering dropping comics from my shop.

Discussion in 'Comic Books and Graphic Novels' started by Hiro Prime, Mar 14, 2010.

  1. Hiro Prime

    Hiro Prime Cybertronian Guru Veteran

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    As the title states, I am seriously considering dropping new comics from my business. I am looking for a little input here on what you guys think about that. Now before you respond, let me give you some details to mull over before you post your responses.

    My shop is a collectors store that's located in a small town in a small county in North Iowa. My area covers about 20,000 people. We sell Comics both new and old, Manga, Toys, T-shirts, Non-Sports Cards and Games with Games making up over 50% of our sales. (remember that point for later) We've been in business for over 18 years so we know our customer base very well and they seem to like us as they keep coming back. (Yes I do have another shop in town that they can go to but comics and games are the only two things we both sell as they carry Sports stuff and sell Barbies.)

    I carry over 150 different titles of new comics in the store and have 25 customers who use our Subscription service. I have my new comics set up on a new rack for the first week that they are out along with any new Manga, Magazines, and Carded toys that Diamond ships us. After the first week, the those new comics go to a larger rack where it will sit for another 4 weeks. After that, it comes down and 1 gets bagged and tagged to go to the back issue boxes while any others left go the the back store room. We've done it this way since the beginning and it used to work out nicely.

    But these days I am pulling off and sending a shortbox to the back every two weeks. Why is this bad you ask? Keep in mind that as a small shop I can only get my comics from Daimond for 50% of cover price at the most. That means every comic I carry in the shop costs me at least $2.00 each. Unbagged, a shortbox can hold 150 or more comics. So I'm throwing $150.00 into my store room every week. (or $600.00 a month) Keep in mind that outside of my subscribers, I only sell about $75.00-$100.00 at cover price a week in new issues. It becomes easy to see that I'm losing money. And, I can't sell the issues I take down online as most places offer them for .99 each. I'd recover some of my money if I did, but I'd still be losing a buck per book.

    Part of the problem as I see it is that my youngest New Comic buyer is 26. I can sell packs of game cards to kids all day long, but I can't get them to buy a comic. So part of it is that the audience is drying up. (I can't even get them to take them for free during Free Comic Book Day.) Also keep in mind that while I carry over 150 issues per month, I rarely carry more than 5 of any issue. Some I only order 1 or 2 extra for the customers who won't use my subscription service but still come in to buy a few issues now and then.

    As to why I carry so many different titles, you'd be surprised how small of a selection that is compared to how many titles one can order each month. In fact, I use to carry over 200 until 2 years ago and back in the 90's, we carried over 300. (ah, the good old days.) If I tried to cut back any more, I'd have to drop Marvel and DC titles that walk-in's look for. Since I started to cut back two years ago, I'd have customers come in and complain that I didn't have that title they were looking for so I'd have to try and back order it for them. Some stopped coming in as I didn't have their book anymore and they refused to Subscribe. (now before you get the wrong idea here, the type of customer I'm talking about here is the ones who don't always pick up each and every issue in a title. They may drop a book if they didn't like the story or art, or start with a new book because they're a fan of the new Writer or Artist. Those kinds of things are a little beyond my control so when I don't sell a book for 3 months and I cut it and that person comes in looking for whatever reason, they wound up not happy with us. (and I lose them to the other store in town)

    The bigger publishers see this and it's why they are printing incentive covers. If we're ordering 5 of something, they offer a special cover to try and get us to order 10 or 25 issues to get it. This in turn has the collectors wanting that cover so they ask you to get it for them. (Blackest night did rings if you ordered 50 or more so guess who didn't get rings.) But I played that game in the '90's and damn near lost my store. (any one want a W.I.L.D.Cats #1, I still have 50 sitting in the back.) So these days games make up 50% of my sales while comics (not counting TPBs) only represents 10% counting my subscribers. The problem is that each month, comics themselves (not counting TPBs) make up over 50% of my costs.

    So, in a recession where people are forced to tighten their budget belts thus choosing food/shelter/bills over collectibles like comics, I find that I can't continue to throw money away on a shrinking market. Cutting more would only serve to draw the problem out and piss off more customers. So I find myself wanting to just cut the limb off to save the body. I would offer my customers the opportunity to subscribe to continue to get their books, but the walk-ins that refuse that service will quit coming to my shop. That sucks, but I can't keep back stocking $600.00 a month on the hope that I'll sell them one day.

    So I ask you guys who took the time to read all of this, what do you think?
     
  2. matrixprime

    matrixprime AJ's Toy Chest Owner

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    Do you think it would be more profitable for your business to take the money that you invest in comics each month and put that into expanding your games selection that accounts for so much of your sales or even use that cash inflow to increase toy merchandise?

    Comics do seem to be on the downward spiral and many readers seem to fit into that age category you described. It might not be a terrible idea to drop them. Sure you lose 10% in sales but you should be able to recoup the cost and offset it.

    Can you push hardcovers and trades more to offset the cost of selling individual issues? My local shop does a buy 12 in a year get 1 for equal or lesser value on hardcovers and trades deal and it works out nicely for him?

    If you could come up with a way to get readers to buy trades, perhaps that would interest them enough to start buying individual issues.

    Just some random thoughts I had at this really late hour. I'll think about it some more and get back to this thread soon.
     
  3. McBradders

    McBradders James Franco Club! Moderator

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    Is there any way to run comics based events or evenings in your store? Like a book club, but for comic books? Screen movies, educate kids, introduce them to licensed card games based on superheromans and stuff?

    Seems a shame just to give up on something that makes being a nerd so fucking great.
     
  4. Hiro Prime

    Hiro Prime Cybertronian Guru Veteran

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    I sell the bajeezus out of Trades. Manga too ever since the B-Daltons at the mall closed down. I've actually asked my TPB buyers what they like about the trades over the comics and it seems to come down to having to wait 30 days to read the next part of a story for 4-6 months. One kid even mentioned that he liked to put them up on a book shelf rather than keeping comics in a box.

    One of the things I'd expand on is TPBs. I already carry over 1,000 Hardbacks, 2,500 TPB and well over 3,000 Manga in stock. It's taken me years to build that selection up as I always try to replace the trades I sell.

    We've done Free Comic Book Day every year and the kids show no interest. I used to have a Manga club until a couple of the girls started to hate on each other and their friends had to choose sides. The whole thing fell apart in a bad way. I do one better than screen movies, however, as I sponsor Midnight showings at my local theater for all of the Comic movies and blockbusters. I usually give out over a hundred bucks worth of stuff at those but I don't hand out comics hardly anymore as most of them wind up in the trash in the lobby.

    As far as the licensed super hero games go, there isn't a card game currently supported and I haven't been able to get anyone to buy a Hero click pack for over a year. Star Wars and D&D mini's I sell, Super Heroes, not so much.

    I do agree with you that it's a damn shame that comics seem to be fading. I spent a great deal of my early childhood sitting in the backroom of my dad's comic shop back in the late '70's and early '80's. I was always reading years past my grade level due to the thousands of comics I read back then. (sigh... good times.)
     
  5. McBradders

    McBradders James Franco Club! Moderator

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    Hmn, given your tale of trades, seems like its nothing you can do if they keep this shitty trade focus up. Ultimately they're doing themselves out of buisiness rather than anything you're doing.
     
  6. Doctor Doom

    Doctor Doom Doom is best pony Veteran

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    As long as I still get to order my stuff (and the occasional back issue or a comic i forgot the previous month like Mass Effect #2, my bad for not finding the blasted spot) it wont be a problem.

    Cut the costs you need.

    Though I might have to ask my stepfather if theres any comics he wants when i start my orders... he usually complains that I dont get some of the stuff he wants to read.
     
  7. Sizzle

    Sizzle Sparkabot

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    Y'know, I like nothing better than a good comic shop. It just feels like a great place to be. Sadly, that experience is becoming less and less frequent.

    At the age of 33, I just can't afford to lay down money for every issue of every title that I want. Especially if it's a huge clusterfuck like DC crossovers tend to be.

    Hell, once Classics and Universe TF toys started coming out, I had to even cut out my TF comic purchases.

    I hate to say it, but I've become one of those trade paperback folks (and yes, they do display a LOT better on a bookshelf.) That's not likely to change either. It's convenient because I can pick and choose the story arcs that I'm interested in.

    As for your question, Hiro, if you're losing money on it, then you can't very well keep doing it. Comic book shops are nice, and I love them dearly, but I understand why folks are getting out of the business. It's not a charity you're running there.
     
  8. RabidYak

    RabidYak Go Ninja Go Ninja Go

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    If you can get a better return for your investment and shelf space on other goods, then its common sense and good business to drop them. You arn't a charity for the comic industry and you can't carry on as a convenience service for disorganised plebs if its damaging the business that pays your bills.

    Anyone that tries to blame you for it is an idiot, the current business model for Direct Market floppies is outdated and awful value for both retailers and customers. Not to mention that Diamond is an abusive monopoly thats only interested in squeezing the industry for as much as it can get, or that the major publishers are still stuck in the survival mentality of mostly producing content for existing customers.
     
  9. Gingerchris

    Gingerchris Telly-headed Tyrant

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    Pretty much what I was thinking. If something doesn't sell in a store then that line of product is usually dropped. Obviously people think of your type of store and think 'comics store' regardless of what other things you sell which makes it hard to drop the comics, but since you're doing so well on the other stuff and comics are doing so badly it might be time for a shake up. You only have twenty-five subscribers so maybe you can risk losing those if the amount they subscribe to isn't a lot, or even just get in comics only for subscribers. Sell off the stuff clogging your stockroom at a reduced rate and then fill it with games, TPBs, toys and t-shirts. Become the best store to go to for those items and save yourself the future hassle of fairweather comics collectors. Those people only have themselves to blame if you end up having to drop the comics. And even then they'll still be able to buy the TPBs of them from you if they wanted.
    You say you lose people to the other store in town. Any idea how they're faring? Are you on speaking terms with your rival? They could be having similar problems. Maybe it's in the best interests of both of you to collaborate somehow. Or crush them if they're weakened. :p 

    Sure there's a bad economy right now and everyone makes excuses for the poor cash-strapped customers, but those customers rarely think of the poor store owner trying to keep afloat. If you go under because of dithering comic buyers then they'll not have a store to screw about anyway.
    Maybe this situation is a good thing in a sense and give you a chance to streamline the business for stuff that works in today's economic climate. Go where the money is. It'll be sad to leave monthly comics titles behind and not be quite the store you once were, but at least you'll still be a store.
     
  10. kidnicky

    kidnicky Well-Known Member

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    I'm never going to buy a monthly floppy ever again,and there's tons of people like me. To me,buying a thin,paper pamphlet for 4 dollars seems like a HUGE waste of money,espescially since to really keep them you need to also buy boxes,bags,and boards.

    It just makes so much more sense to me to spend 12 bucks on Amazon to get a nice book of the whole story that I can fit on my bookshelf.

    Drop monthly comics from the store. The sales are NEVER coming back. If Dark Knight and the Iron Man movies didn't convince teens to spend cash on this stuff,nothing ever will. Even the few teens who the movies did convert into fans are just torrenting the comics anyway.
     
  11. Wreckgar

    Wreckgar Anthony Stark Veteran

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    I buy monthly book and will do so as long as I can. It's what I enjoy the most.

    But fro ma business standpoint, I see your problem You want to please your loyal customers but at the same time, you can't keep taking the hit. Logical choice is to drop the comics.

    But then you lose your loyal guys who buy there. So what I would say is to try and do a special comic event. See if you can get someone out there for a small cost and boost some comic awareness. My local shop recently had the Strange Tales crew for a signing. It drew a bunch of people and to recoup the cost, customers had to buy the new trade. Maybe something similar would help you out.

    Or just order comics for those particular customers. Maybe order one of each issue extra for the rack or just for those customers. And if they want an incentive, my one time local shop had a similar problem. They would unfortunately make the customer pay the cost of the books to get that incentive. Yea, it sucks but honestly, that's the only way. Explain the costs of getting incentives. If they pay it, awesome, if not, they unfortunately no book and hello eBay.

    It's great being loyal to customers but there is a line to what can be considered acceptable fro ma business standpoint. Whatever you choose, I hope i tall works out and you keep your shop going strong.
     
  12. Aaron

    Aaron Master of Crystalocution Moderator Content Contributor

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    Rough, if comics aren't pulling in the business anymore, cut them. I love my comic shop, but comics are all they do. From the sounds of it they're having to work hard to keep things running.
     
  13. smkspy

    smkspy is one nice fucking kitty

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    Doesn't help either that online ordering has become so easy and a much cheaper option now.

    Sorry to hear that you're probably going to have to cut comics HP, but at least you have other items to make a profit on.
     
  14. Dragonclaw

    Dragonclaw Comic Ink - Dublin, CA

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    I hate to say it, but I'd agree that IF you can...just orderring for your subsribers and nothing extra is the BEST way to go. I tried getting my son into comics and he couldn't get into it...you buy a book nowadays and it's 1 small part of some huge story arc...and odds are you didn't buy that random book at the beginning of the story...back in "the good 'ol days" sure it was pretty much villain-of-the-month....but any kid could pick up a copy of Spiderman and have a complete story. There was occasionally a back story as well, but you didn't always feel like you missed out if all you could get was that one book....a villain showed up and was beat YAY! Now EVERYTHING seems to be written with the inevitable graphic novel in mind. Between that and the cost of books...which in my time has jumped more than 1000% (started when comics were "Still only 35 cents!") for less story development per month. I'd still be into comics at the level I used to be if comics were cheaper, even if it meant "less detailed" art (give me Ditko and Kirby ANY day over some of the stuff out now...) and lower quality paper (I want to enjoy the book, I'm not looking for an archive piece...If books were still $1 to $1.50 each I'd have 20 titles in a saver TODAY...at $4 a book (or a percentage of a story) not so much...
     
  15. Grimlocks Pretender Shell

    Grimlocks Pretender Shell mmmm...energon

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    Sadly its not something you're doing wrong. Comic books are marketed at adults nowadays. It doesn't help when stories ar egeared toward the adult collector either.

    Have you tried pushing the more kid friendly comics? Like the Marvel Adventures stuff? DC's Tiny Titans is a fun read, that kinda stuff.

    What kinda trades are you selling the most of?
     
  16. 03Mach1

    03Mach1 Reason Has No Voice

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    Sell the incentive covers at a premium and this will help lower the cost of the regular issues and maybe allow you to put more comics into a $1 or $2 bin to recoup the costs of the shelf warmers. Rinse and repeat and you may get customers who try some of the $1/$2 comics and add them to their pulls. Sure beats storing $600 worth of comics every month.
     
  17. Beastbot X

    Beastbot X The Toad Knows.

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    Seems to me like you've already decided, man. I don't see many "howevers" in the original post to counteract all the bad stuff you're talking about.

    Drop 'em. The bottom line is what matters-- who would you rather lose, your 26 subscribers or everyone who goes to your store?
     
  18. Boo

    Boo Addicted to candy canes.

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    Well, that blows. But, you have to to what you have to do.

    I just recently got back into comics and at first picked up nothing but trades. Now... eh, trades are great for getting backstory rather than trying to pick up back issues. However, nothing beats a floppy, as I've found.

    The comic industry kinda sucks now, though, eh? Some great things happening, but not many people buying.
     
  19. Kickback

    Kickback Proud father Administrator Super Mod News Staff

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    Drop your selection down to a more managable and even profitable number - like 50. Only do the popular comics, and for your subscribers, the issues that they collect (you can order that way, can't you?). Stay on top of what's popular, what's coming out, and stock up maybe a little higher on that stuff (like the next Avengers push, for example, or the next Blackest Night type of story) to anticipate possible higher demand for those.

    Fuck incentives.

    Maybe offer a promo - buy 5 issues, save $#.##. Offer an even bigger incentive on your back issues. You've already paid for the back issues, they're dead weight and potential $$ to help back up the revenue you're losing out on the new stuff ... so do some massive clearance selling on those.

    With the smaller number of comics, grade your sales and go from there. If a department cannot run itself and be profitable, it needs to change. If a change doesn't fix it, it has to be dropped before it suffocates the business as a whole.
     
  20. Lumpy

    Lumpy Taylor Swift Actionmaster Super Mod

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    damn man, sorry to hear about this... i hate when comic shops stop carrying comics... especially with how the market is now, and so many people resorting to TPB only... i do understand that aspect though, as they do fit nicely on a shelf... that's why i buy stories i love in single and TPB or HC... but i know most people don't do this... and i'm even about to cut more books from my pull list... mostly because they're crappy stories, but also the money has a big influence... i'm currently at 62 books a month... and that's alot...

    one thing my LCS does is take old back issues and build sets out of story arcs... so if you've got enough issues to do that, i'd try that... they usually sell a set at about 2 bucks an issue, if they were 3 originally... so a 5 issues story arc is about 10 bucks... not much profit made, but better then losing money... also they trade with other stores to fill in gaps...

    another thing i heard awhile ago that i think is great is to take the unsold extra issues, put a big sticker (with location, phone # and FREE across the top in big letters) on the front advertising your location, and leave those around places... schools, restaurants, malls... anyplace that has someone who might read that story then want to buy more... then they can just keep that issue for free, and hopefully come in to buy more...

    as mentioned before, if someone wants a variant cover, charge them enough for it so that it covers the cost of extra issues... if they want a 1 in 10 cover, and you normally order 5, explain to them they'll have to pay more for it... if they say no, then they're welcome to hit ebay... also take a look at what titles are really moving consistently and which lag... try trimming down how much you order... i know its hard with art and writers changing alot, but see what you can do...

    do you have a mailing list? maybe email your customers and see what their opinions are... at the very least, i'd keep ordering books for anyone who subscribes... that's just a good way to keep those people around...

    another thing to do with extra issues is looking to sell them to other bigger stores that may need them... could be a possibility... i really feel like i've got another good idea or two in my head, but i'm bloody tired... gonna go to bed, but i'll check this thread again tomorrow to see what's going on... and maybe drop more help if i can...
     

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