Why I Don't Run A Comic Shop

By | Wednesday, April 25, 2007 1 comment
Two stories from this afternoon's trek to pick up my weekly fix of comics from my local comic shop...

1) I've gotten the comics from my file, checked out the new stuff on the shelves, and am ready to make my purchase. As I walk up to the counter, the comic shop owner and his wife are going through two copies of Barry Ween in TPB page by page. Turns out that page 14 was evidently printed twice by accident. As it further turns out, they had two copies of the book previously in stock, saw the error and returned them to Diamond already for an exchange. They had just gotten the two replacement books back... with the exact same error in them! He was going to place a call into Diamond after he checked on something else.

2) I was scanning this week's new books and caught something called New Avengers: Illuminati Secret History. Though I'm not keen on the storyline in general, I am somewhat appreciative of the puzzle aspect of Illuminati -- trying to figure when/how/if these stories can be placed within the greater existing chronology of these characters. So I flipped through this new book, and shortly discovered that it's just a reprint of the first two issues of Illuminati. I promptly put it back.

Well, as the owner and I were discussing the Barry Ween issue, he mentioned that he was surprised at the content of Secret History as well. Of course, he was actually rather upset about it because he had ordered 60 copies -- about the same as what he sold for the two issues it reprints. He didn't recall reading anything in advance about the book being a reprint or second printing, which is precisely why he ordered so many. He's not going to be able to move nearly as many as he ordered because just about every one of his customers that wants the story already has it.

When I left, he was going through all of his old information from Diamond to ensure that he was indeed remembering things correctly and the issue was NOT solicited with any information about it being reprint material. If he's wrong, he's going to have to eat the cost of 50+ of those 60 books. I recall Chuck Rozanski saying a year or three back that, from a business perspective, the value of any new comic that doesn't sell within the first two months is around ten cents. So if my LCS is wrong... well, let's do some quick math...

$3.99 cover price times 60 copies = $239.40 possible revenue. Minus an estimated 45% discount from Diamond = $131.67 initial cost to the LCS. Assume five copies sold at MSRP = $19.95 revenue. Ten cent value per remaining unsold issue = $5.50 (which actually would likely not be realized for quite some time). That leaves the LCS $106.22 in the hole from an originally estimated $107.73 profit. For one error in one week. They'd be down about $200 from the original projections, which might mean they couldn't buy groceries that week.

I left the store before he found the original solicitation. I don't know at this point who was in error. I don't know the shop's finances well enough to know whether that really does mean they can or can't buy groceries that week. But multiply those types of concerns for every issue of every title that comes out every week. All the more kudos to someone who can do that on an ongoing basis, but I think I'll pass on playing THAT risky of a game.
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Ugh! Every week I find yet another reason not to open a comics store. If I ever do, though, it'll be modeled after an independent BOOKstore, with a focus on OGN/TPBs and working with multiple distributors, not a direct market LCBS held hostage by Diamond, Marvel & DC.