Earlier this year, Thwipster launched as a new online retail site for with "daily deals for your inner geek." They're got graphic novels and statues and toys and the same type of material you'd find in a local comic shop. But only a VERY limited stock. You can't browse through finding the latest releases, or pre-order the Next Big ThingTM, or even find that really great, super-popular book that EVERYBODY is talking about. As I'm writing this, they have exactly 18 items available for sale.
So why shop there?
Because they have great prices. They don't carry a wide range of goods but what they do have is priced really, really well. A lot is priced from 30-40% off the regular retail price, and I've seen some items discounted by as much as 80%! Not surprisingly, that kind of pricing helps to sell things out pretty quickly.
Which is the basic business model. By offering great deals, but only for a VERY limited time, they increase the sense that what you're getting is really special, so you're a little quicker to hit the "Buy Now" button. That might sound a little cynical, but Thwipster isn't doing anything that hasn't already been shown as perfectly viable and accepted model by eBay and Groupon and dozens of other sites you've probably already heard of. Plus, Thwipster seems a little more honest and up-front about that aspect of it.
I actually went ahead and put in an order with them last week. The two Kamandi Archives hardcovers were on sale for $20 each! They retail at $50 and I'd been eyeballing them off and on for a while now, so I opted to give these Thwipster guys a shot. I placed the order last week Sunday, and they shipped my books out at the end of the week; they arrived today.
The packing struck me as interesting. Just a normal cardboard mailing box, but inside the two books were packaged very similarly to how Amazon packages books: they were bound together in plastic with a cardboard backer to keep them from shifting around. The only real difference was that Thwipster used cling film instead of shrink wrap. Despite Amazon doing that for years, I think this is the first instance I've seen anyone else emulate it. The two books were both brand new, still in their original cellophane wrappers, so everything looks to be in great shape for me to sit down and read through Jack Kirby's apocalypse.
The site, like many others, encourages you to sign up for their Twitter and Facebook accounts, and subscribe to their email newsletter. In their case, though, it makes more sense than many other sites, since they use those outlets to let you know what deals they might have that day. (A key factor in their model, remember, since those books might not be there tomorrow!) Had I not been following them on Twitter, for example, I would likely have missed the deal on those Kamandi books.
With so few items to worry about, the site itself is pretty simple and easy to navigate. There's not really any searching-for-that-one-Superman-title-among-dozens-of-others problems; they either have it or they don't. And you can figure that out with a five-second scan of their home page. The deals are at least good, frequently great. Your biggest concern with them is making sure you don't buy too many things, since they're all so cheap. If they're able to keep these deals coming, and continue on with good customer service, I suspect they'll soon be a good-sized player in the comics retail industry.
(I do wonder how they're able to sell some of these items so cheaply without losing money, though. They must have some Mephistophelean deal with Diamond. Or maybe Thwipster just loots Diamond's warehouse periodically. Either way, I'm not asking questions, lest I find some mountain of a man named Guido at my front door!)