Tales From A Comic Shop

By | Sunday, July 17, 2011 1 comment
I was talking with a cousin of mine recently, and we chatted briefly about the comic shop he frequents. It's actually one of my former haunts, and we used to run into each other there semi-regularly. I stopped going there about ten years ago because of a move, but it's still my cousin's closest shop.

I try to hit different local comic shops when I travel. More for seeing how other shops operate and what types of business models they use than to actually purchase anything. (Though I usually do that as well.) Now, admittedly, I haven't been to THAT many shops in the past, say, five years but what I have noticed is an increasing reliance on stock besides back issues of traditional pamphlets. Some of the places still have some back issue stock, of course, but more and more of their store is being used for trade paperbacks, hardcovers and the like.

Not so at the shop my cousin still goes to. In fact, he's even pointed out to the manager there that few people peruse the back issue bins any more and they're taking up a LOT of real estate. I never counted, but the last time I was there, they had at least 500 long boxes of back issues on the floor. My cousin says that hasn't really changed, and the initial small bookshelf additions that were made before I moved a decade ago have been the extent of their changing with the market.

To be fair, there's been a fairly dramatic shift over the past 10-15 years in the comic industry. But the complaints that eBay was drawing away shops' back issue business have been prevalent almost since eBay's inception. Not to mention the big, early online retail shops like Mile High and Lone Star. You'd have to live in a pretty sheltered bubble to avoid seeing that selling back issues out of a store front is not really a great way to stay in business.

Now, maybe it's just a storage issue. After all, they had all those long boxes BEFORE the internet started changing the industry. Maybe they just don't have anywhere better to put them than in the middle of the store. But they could still free up a lot of the floor space fairly easily by just placing half of the long boxes on the floor. (They're all on tables currently.) Sure, it's not ideal to rifle through a long box sitting under a table, but no one's doing that when they're at a more convenient height now.

It's possible there's a financial issue there. They would have to buy more TPB and HC stock, as well as bookshelves (or something) to put them on. But it's an old business axiom that you have to spend money to make money, and it seems to me worth it to take out a couple thousand dollar loan to update things and make some eventual profit, rather than have those back issues taking up space and (by and large) not generating any money at all.

As I said, I haven't actually been to the shop in years. It's possible my cousin's exaggerating that nothing's been updated. But I've driven by a few times and can still see the extremely faded superhero standee in the front window -- the same standee that's been there since 1996. So I suspect it hasn't changed. And it's possible they're still doing decent business and new issue sales are quite profitable for them, thankyouverymuch.

But it nonetheless seems strange to me to hold to a "well, this is how we've always done it" methodology when the whole industry is changing around you. If something stops working (or works with severely decreased effectiveness), especially when it's because of a changing environment around you, you change what it is you're doing to adapt to the new situation. Doing what used to work in an old environment is almost a sure road to failure in a new environment.
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I see what you are saying about going with the trends, and I am relatively newbee to comics also, but I sort of like digging through those back issues. You're probably right though, and there is no reason I couldn't work a little harder at digging.