The Comic Lounge

By | Sunday, March 05, 2006 Leave a Comment
You may have noticed in the past several years, that a number of large book store chains have been popping up. Most notably -- at least here in Ohio -- are Borders and Barnes & Noble. That's largely because, in simple terms, they're successful. Nothing breeds success like success, after all. But what makes them successful and can those elements be applied to comic book shops?

Well, the first thing they have going for them is selection. You can find almost any new book at either store, and if you ask a clerk to order something they don't have, they'll be able to do that fairly quickly, provided the book is still in print. I think more comic shops need to do this. Sure, you can walk into almost any shop and pick up the latest X-Men or Batman, but that's the comic book equivalent of whatever's been plugged by Oprah Winfrey or the Harry Potter books. Everyone's going to have those, and it's nothing particularly special to make the store stand out. But, by having a larger selection that includes more independent titles, you're more likely to attract a more diverse audience and, more importantly, cross-sell those titles. "Say, if you like Ultimate Spider-Man, you might try Powers. It's by the same guy." "Cool cover, eh? It's by Eric Powell. He does The Goon as well."

Another thing the larger bookstores have done is made the atmosphere more comfortable. If you're just looking for a book, you can go to Amazon or wherever and order it online. In many cases, more cheaply than you can by going to the store and buying it yourself. But if you want to browse, you have to go to a bookstore. Knowing this, bookstores have set themselves up as being as browseable as possible. They tend to have relatively wide ailes, and a number of areas specifically designed for reading. Large, comfy chairs with side tables and such. Many bookstores even have coffee houses within the stores. You can pick up a book off the shelf and sit down to read for a while. Now, there's some percentage of people who are certainly going to take advantage of that and treat the bookstore as a library to be sure, but I can't imagine these large chains would continue the practice if they were actually losing money in the scheme. Now, books have the advantage over comics in that they're generall longer and can't be read very quickly. But how many people go to a comic shop to socialize anyway? And with the size of most comic shops, it wouldn't be difficult to monitor/police people use a lounge area to ensure that it wasn't be over-used as a library.

What about hunting down back issues? I know places like eBay have been a huge hit to comic shops' back issue selections, but I'm certain that there's still people who are looking to pick up the odd issue that they just can't seem to find. How about putting a sign up that says, "Can't find what you're looking for? Ask us. If we don't have it, we'll order it for you." The re-order process, to my understanding, isn't quite as simple as it is for chain bookstores, but comic shops also have a little more flexibility in that they have multiple avenues to pursue in searching for back issues. They can trade with other shops, or just keep an eye on some of the online locations. You won't find those capabilities at a major chain bookstore, I'm sure.

Now, granted, the chain bookstores have some serious cash flow advantages over your average comic shop owner. But I think they've also done some research that a comic shop owner can capitalize on and use to their advantage. How cool would it be to see shops that looked "professional" and didn't look like somebody just decided it would be cool to sell comics?
Newer Post Older Post Home