I’ve shopped at many local comics shops over the years, and I have to pay attention when a store decides that comics “aren’t enough” for whatever reason… I get worried.
The store I frequent most these days has gotten into small motorized race cars and has even set up a track to race them right in the store. It doesn’t bother me, but I’m not at all into that. (I think it’s there to keep the newly retired husband busy while the wife deals with comics and related items, but that’s just me.)
I don’t think this time it’s a sign of problems this time, but I have run into it in the past.
MUSIC, WOMEN’S SHOES, TATTOES, ETC.
I guess it’s true that selling comics doesn’t always provide the income some shop owners want. So, I’ve been to stores that add that “extra stuff” they hope will put them over the top financially.
My favorite one was in a Florida city near a big university. They sold comics, women’s shoes and glass windows for cars. I thought of that as the “something for everyone” approach… comics for the kids, shoes for the ladies, and windows for the guys’ cars.
The bad thing was, with so much product in a smaller store space, they couldn’t really keep much in stock for people to peruse. The comics seemed to take the smallest percentage of space, so I only went there once.
Another store kind of had the “flavor of the month” approach… one time, it was books and novels. The next month, it was computer software. Now it’s gaming, which is, granted, quite the popular add-on. Oh, and since the guys hang out there and play games a lot, they’ve also added drinks and snacks for them to buy to bring in some extra income. Works for me! I’ve often wondered why more stores who run gaming contests don’t do this!
One store had a tattoo artist who came in once or twice a week. The sad thing was that he wasn’t very good at drawing comics characters, so that didn’t last long.
Another store, to tell you how long ago this was, sold LPs and 45s with “today’s music.” On one level, this place was ahead of its time, given that several comics today print lists of music the creators feel you should listen to while reading their book.
SOMETIMES THE COMICS ARE THE ‘EXTRA’ ITEMS
There used to be a gaming store that sold comics to make extra bucks. They weren’t all that great at it, but if they had something you wanted, you got a GREAT price for it. They had never heard of the Overprice Street Guide, after all. I remember buying Nexus #1, the black-and-white version, for $2.50. They had big signs all over the shop saying that you could buy the book for whatever they had marked it for. I could see the owner, who was at the cash register when I took my precious find to check out, just sink. It could have sold for ten times that amount. Now, he had marked a lot of stuff way up that I had paid for in the past, so as much as I hate doing this to a store owner, I felt it balanced out all the deals that were in his favor in the past. He never liked me much after that, though.
I know of a store that began in a small shopping area that sold everything from jewelry to women’s clothes, and they were anxious to bring in other money. They happened to know someone who was ordering comics from a big distributor, and he offered to sell them some comics at a discounted price. He said he’d buy them back if they didn’t sell.
Well, sell they did, and eventually they ended up a comics shop. The bad news was that the owners weren’t all that into comics, so eventually that place closed down. I understand they did get back to their roots in a different location. Oh, well, comics aren’t for everyone!
THE ‘SECRET’ STASH
Probably my favorite story of comic stores that branched out into different items was a store in the Orlando area located near a Navy base. Those people living at the base said that all their bills were paid for them, so they had extra money to spend by the boatload, and they often came in with cash to burn and spent it there.
However, one time, the store was broken into. Several of us regular customers went there to support the owner. When we got there, we found the window had been broken so the intruders could open the door by reaching and turning the door knob on the inside.
The burglary had happened the night before, so we looked around the store, checking out to see what was taken. To our surprise, we couldn’t find anything that was stolen. At least, what we could see.
We told the owner how fortunate he was that this was the case, but he didn’t respond. Instead, he looked down at the floor, shuffling his feet. It was then we realized that he wasn’t only selling comics there. He was selling something that, shall we say, the local police would prefer he not sell.
“Oh,” we responded. This explained why he hadn’t called the local constabulary.
It wasn’t long after that he moved his store to a different, more secure location. The number of comics he sold reduced dramatically, but that wasn’t what he really wanted customers to buy, so it eventually went out of business. Sheesh.
I MEAN, I GET IT
Few industries are more volatile than comics. If you have great customers, but they run into bad financial times, it affects you. Many owners want to have a guard against that happening, so they get into selling others stuff. I get that. I’ve also seen Beanie Babies, Pops, Manga and many other things for sale in shops.
The only problem I have is that comics often take a back seat to the other products being sold. THAT I have a concern with.
What have stores sold besides comics that you have shopped at? What do you think comics shops should sell besides the weekly books and comics-related items? Please be sure to share your thoughts in the space below!
A friend of mine owns a comic book store that sells Magic: The Gathering cards (and other collectible card games), Pop vinyl figures, comic book related toys, and board games. He does not carry many comic book TBP’s for some reason. He does have a large area on one side of the store with gaming tables and has a gaming event just about every day of the week. At one time he sold retro video games and consoles but he got out of that business a couple of years ago. He is in the process of setting up an area in the store to sell personal pizzas and soft drinks. I give him credit for trying different things. I hope the food stand works out for him.
If he holds Magic and other card game tournaments, he’ll do well, I bet! :)