I remember when I thought what I’d like to be most in life was a comics store owner. After all, I could sit around all day reading and talking comics! No boring work like bagging and boarding weekly books – I could hire someone else to do all that!
But these days in particular, ordering comics is quite the challenge! It used to be that stores could afford to gamble with things like action figures. For example, I’m a big Batman fan. Knowing this, my regular store would often order things I hadn’t indicated I wanted, like a Batmobile toy or odd and unusual books I wasn’t aware of in the hope that I would be unable to resist them when they were put on display at the store. (I was told by one store employee that I was NOT the biggest Batman fan there because someone else actually bought a lot more Bat-items than I did.)
Often, that worked back in the days when I had a lot of money to throw around. I used to joke that when I’d walk in the door of the comics store, the cash register would automatically open and call out, “Feed me!” But I don’t have that much money any longer, so I have to be much more careful.
Stores are also having to make safer calls when it comes to product these days. Even the bigger chain stores tend to buy just enough copies of books so they can sell out in a few days after they arrive.
This year – 2015 – is turning into a bigger challenge than most when it comes to ordering product. I fear that we’ll see a number of stores close their doors as a result of poor ordering strategies. But we’ll see.
RUNNING A STORE
As much as I’d like to think that stores exist simply because they love comics, they’re a shining example of what I often call “show business.” As much as many store owners and employees love comics (some even as much as we do here at MajorSpoilers.com), they have to earn money in order to buy books, action figures and statues and pay employees.
I remember one store up in northeastern Pennsylvania that went totally wild on ordering New Teen Titans from Marv Wolfman and George Perez. (That should give you some idea just how long ago this happened.) They literally had boxes of them and expected to move it all. But in the coal mining country I hail from, there’s not nearly as much demand for comics, even the “hot” ones other areas clamor for. One day, a big truck pulled up to the front door, then several guys took all the boxes, leaving an empty store front behind.
The trick to running a store is to make a profit (take in more than you spend) so you can attract more customers and continue this upward spiral.
This is why I’ve never opened a store. I’d have a building full of things *I* love, but then wouldn’t want to sell. I’d go broke in a month or two.
When DC’s offices move from New York to the West Coast, there will be a transition period in which the current books won’t be produced. Instead, there will be some of the pre-New 52 heroes and villains appearing for a couple of months to give people time to tear down, move and set up again in the new location.
The hard part night now is figuring out what will be good and worth the money as opposed to what will end up in the infamous “Quarter Box” where books that have no value at all go and are sold for 25 cents in an attempt to get at least something out of them.
I’ve spoken with several store owners about Convergence, and they’re as uncertain as I am regarding what will be worth getting and what won’t. Not only that, but we’re not at all sure what DC Comics offerings will look like once Convergence ends. Will the New 52 return, the previous comics lines or a combination of the two? Nobody knows. If they do, they’re not telling … at least, not yet.
MARVEL’S SECRET WARS
I’ve often read where Marvel says that everything they do is completely original and in no way is influenced by what DC has done before them, but come on … what’s going to take place with Secret Wars really resembles the New 52 in many ways, seems to me.
And one of the things that really worries those of us in the comics press as well as in the comics industry is that, like DC, we don’t have a firm idea what Marvel offerings will be like after Secret Wars. For instance, is this when the Ultimate Universe croaks? Or not?
Not only that, there are several “rivers” down which Secret Wars will flow. Will be really good while others stink up the joint? We don’t know!
I FEEL SORRY FOR STORE OWNERS
Normally, Marvel and DC are the parts of the industry comics stores are certain they can count on. They make up the majority of sales in most of the stores I’ve ever visited.
Now we find out that those pillars are going to become wobbly at best. As much as I love the other companies as well, like Image, Dynamite, IDW, BOOM! Studios and Oni Press, will their product be enough to keep stores going? I’m not at all sure that’s true.
What most owners have told me they’re going to do is ask their customers just what they want to buy and order beyond that sparingly. That makes sense because even something new with a “name” talent or two on it might fall on its face spectacularly.
Also, it’s good to remember that every “jumping on” point is also a good “jumping off” place. What if fans decide to save their shekels and buy a lot less after these events have ended? Stores could be in real trouble if that happens.
Granted, there’s likely to be return policies that will help stores send back what they haven’t been able to sell. However, that’s not going to save some folks who order by what they like or want to support instead of what they can sell.
STAND BY YOUR STORE
What I recommend we do moving forward is to let the owners and others running the store or stores you frequent know what you want. Then stick with them through 2015.
What destroys many shops is when people come in, see a big event like Secret Wars, then place orders for EVERY book related to that event only to disappear, leaving that store with boxes of material that they can’t sell. Having a lot of that happen will make the industry a vastly different place in 2016.
I beg of you, don’t do that! Carefully review what’s coming out and select what you REALLY want instead of what you MIGHT want. If you order something, be sure to buy it promptly after it’s released. If you’re faithful to your word, store clerks and owners are often willing to work with you if you truly despise something you ordered.
Most comics shops will do what they need to in order to survive. If the store you shop at most doesn’t get something you want, I’d say go digital or call other stores in the area and see if they have what you’re looking for. I have always found it good policy to have a back-up location or two just in case I don’t get to “my” store in time. And keeping the store you buy from in business will help you get what you want now and in the coming years.
As far as what things will look like in 2016, I can only say that there’s been no better time to stick with us here at MajorSpoilers.com than during 2015. We’ll let you know what’s happening and tell you what we think is worth your time and money and what is not. After all, as we like to say, “We know you love comics. We do, too!”[signoff predefined=”PayPal Donation” icon=”icon-flag”][/signoff]