Thursday, February 21, 2013

Impulse Purchases

I heard a report on NPR this morning that made mention of the anecdote that a lot of stores live and die by impulse buys. The suggestion is that stores which just about break even on their main stock and trade can push themselves into a nice profit territory by goading customers into making impulse purchases while they're there. The classic example of this is the checkout lines in grocery stores, where they have a rack of candy bars, gum and sodas. Those items seem relatively innocuous, with price points frequently less than one dollar, but they are so cheap to make that they have a very high profit margin. Indulge me in a couple of non-comics anecdotes.

I once stopped in a gas station to fill up my tank. Gas was a bit cheaper back then, but I think I still spent $20 or so. I then went into the convenience store portion and bought a bottled water for a buck and change. The clerk (presumably the owner) rang me up and noted that he was making more money from the bottle of water than he was off the full tank of gas I just bought.

The bass player in my last band once tried to open his own hot dog restaurant. He ultimately had problems getting an actual location, but he had put a lot of time and thought into lining up as much as he could. That included talking with Pepsi representatives about drink dispensers. The price Pepsi would charge him for buying their soda and selling it to customers was three cents per cup. And that included the cup, lid and straw. Almost regardless of what he ultimately would've charged customers, that's a pretty hefty profit!

Now, with the almost universal understanding that comic shop retailers are not exactly rolling in dough, I find myself wondering where their impulse buys are. I've seen booster packs for Magic and other trading card games near the registers of some shops, but I suspect the profits there are only moderate. I have seen one or two shops that had sodas and some chips in the store, but the purchases of those seemed to be more from people who were there for extended periods on gaming night or whatever. Impulse buys, sure, but seemingly only for a small subset of a store's full customer base. I suspect the collector mentality that is so pervasive with comic collectors precludes food purchases because of the potential danger of staining the comics they also just purchased.

So what, in comicdom, would make sense as an impulse buy? Something relatively cheap for customers, but insanely cheap to produce, giving a nice profit to shops. Offhand, the only thing I can think of would be sketch cards for maybe 99¢ a piece. But that would only really work if you had a good (preferably name) artist that could provide an ongoing supply of them for the price of materials.

But picture a person getting ready to check out at their local shop on a Wednesday. They bring a stack of comics to the register and, as the clerk is ringing them up, there's a neat original sketch of Batman sitting right there. "Hey, neat. Only 99¢? Sure, throw this in too." Original comic book art, but at an affordable level. Seems like a neat idea to me, at least if you could afford to sell them cheaply enough.

ComicsPRO is having their annual meeting right now. Any other ideas we could send out to them?

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