Local comics shops are always looking for that “something extra” to sell with comics. The newest “big thing” is coffee!
COMICS AND COFFEE!
I’ve often pointed out in this column that comics stores can find it tough to survive on selling comic books alone. They can sell “comics related” items such as action figures, T-shirts, snacks, and games.
I’ve even seen stores that sell paperback novels, computer software, or women’s clothing! Or they could provide car window tinting as well as ladies’ shoes! Really!
However, the item I’ve seen most recently and most often these days is coffee!
There are many comics stores near where I live that have “coffee stations” where you buy your Java after your weekly books, then you sit down with both on tables and chairs so you can enjoy them at the same time!
Not only that, but there are now comics companies that sell coffee as well as comic books. What they often do is sell each brand with packaging that is related to the books they sell. Really and for true!
MAKING COMICS A SOCIAL EVENT
We need to face facts in that reading a comic book is something that’s done during a solitary time. I mean, we don’t project a comics page onto a big screen so a group can gather around and read it at the same time. At least, nobody I know does that!
Instead, we have in the past bought our comics, then headed home where we can plunk down comfortably and work our way through this week’s stuff. I have spent hours in my bed or in my chair (if that suits my mood more), having “fallen into” my new comics as I read them.
What I sometimes did with friends who had a big living area was take my books (along with these people) to that home, then park on the floor or in the furniture as the room got seriously quiet when we began to read. We would comment on a book particularly if it was a really good one! “Wow! I loved this one!” would make the rest of us pull up our faces out of what we were reading to take note just what book that person liked. Most of us would NOT share those books (condition matters, after all!) so others could read them. We would just make a mental note to check it out when we got to the LCS next.
Many stores these days are trying to make themselves into social hubs, where customers don’t just treat them like libraries (quiet, please!) with silence the required atmosphere. Instead, if you get more than one person reading (and drinking coffee or another activity) and they interact, you make it easier for fans to hear about and pick up more comics before they head out the door.
It’s a pretty smart way to run that business, when you think about it!
Of course, there are some serious drawbacks when comics and food are combined!
For instance, I remember a store that served wedding cake on the day that Peter Parker married Mary Jane. They literally were scraping cake out of comics for months afterward!
If coffee gets spilled on a comic, particularly someone else’s book, well, that can lead to conflict and clean-up, among other things!
A store owner has to be careful when picking out coffee cups, furniture, and how a shop is laid out. Too much crowding can be a serious problem!
I’ve seen some stores that encourage groups gathering each week to discuss comics. I knew one fan who actually brought his very own chair so he could sit in the store for hours to talk comics. The bad news was that he never bought anything, just talked!
Granted, there will still be some customers who just want to buy their books (and also maybe their coffee) and return home to read. I’m sure an LCS owner will be just as happy to take in their money as well!
WHAT IF YOU DON’T LIKE COFFEE?
The trick is that I just can’t drink coffee. Any soda or liquid that contains caffeine, when I drink it, gives me a terrific headache! I must be allergic to it! I’ve even swallowed some orange soda that make my head hurt like crazy! When I looked at the ingredients, caffeine was near the top of the list! No more of that stuff!
So, I look at coffee bags—even ones that bear the images of comics characters I like—and my head starts to pound in expectation! I just can’t do it!
The way you have to run a good shop is to know your customers. Before you invest in a boatload of coffee bags and several machines, you should know if the fans who frequent your store will actually WANT that!
I used to go to one store that featured a big gaming area. They would stay open late and on weekends so gamers could be there for hours playing board games, card games, or even video games. Afraid of snacks and the accompanying paper products requiring hours of cleaning, the owner didn’t sell any candy or bottles of soda or water.
Soon he noticed that customers came bringing in their own snacks and drinks. He ended up cleaning the floors anyway. He decided that, if the guys coming in wanted easy-to-serve foods, then he should be the one making money. The next time I went to the store, there were boxes with candy to sell and a drink machine ready for people to take care of their hunger or thirst. Smart guy!
With coffee, the same principle applies. If fans in your shop want it, be sure to provide it so it’s YOU making the profit instead of the nearby grocery store! Hey, it just might keep an LCS’s doors open more months than before!
What do you think? Do you prefer reading your comics as a solitary activity? Does your store offer coffee and/or snacks? If they provide it, do you sit down with other fans to imbibe and read? What else would you like to see your LCS do? Whatever your opinion, be sure to share your thoughts below!