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Thread: 16: DON'T BUY THIS COMIC!

  1. MattGrant Guest

    16: DON'T BUY THIS COMIC!

    Local Comics Shops

    We've tossed around lots of ideas since CAFP started, and most of them involve ideas about sales models and concepts for when the Direct Market/LCS system fail. A major bummer of an idea to be sure. With all the cards stacked against the DM system, LCS's would be in good form to really try and reach out in order to sustain the market as it is. What I'm saying is, there needs to be a collective attempt by retailers to get NEW and returning customers into their stores buying comics, if the the DM is going to survive and keep the retailers in business.

    Bottom line.

    I try and go to every comic shop I that I get near, and I have to tell you, the overwhelming bunch of these stores, ARE NOT conducive to acquiring, keeping, or, in many cases, even caring about new business. I have to wonder... what the hell is going on? Seems like running an LCS (without personal experience) would be a tough business to run and turn profit. The cards are stacked against you (and, oh yes, there will be cards)-- so why on earth would stores shun new business?

    I've made a point of visiting every shop that I have an opportunity to. I've lived up and down the fine state of California and have called several LCS's "My LCS" in my lifetime. The quality of such LCS's has varied, much has the service. I'm going to try and give a run down of some of what I call "customer blockades" I've encountered in my life as a comic book consumer:

    **Please note, I am not being down on the retail business, there are many fine retailers out there, and if you are one of them, be proud that you are not on my list! This is just an examination of areas that SEVERAL stores could improve upon, or things to avoid-- I am in no way saying that all stores fall in to one or any of these categories-- just that some do and its detrimental to the comics industry as a whole.**

    The Fan Shop. This is the guy who loves comics. LOVES comics. Thinks owning a LCS would be the best because he would be surrounded by comics all day long and call it his job. That's a nice thought, but this guy has zero business sense, and likely orders comics based on what he thinks people should like (sometimes inadvertently because he thinks what he likes is popular, though I've had one guy, no longer in business, literally tell me "I buy lots of Hulk, people should buy Hulk. Its the best"). So not only is the inventory skewed to the taste of the owner (versus the clientele), but often these well meaning folks don't even know to say hello when you walk in the door, or have any other basic customer service skills.

    The Dungeon. You know this one. Its totally dark, cramped, and uninviting. If that weren't enough the guy working there (if even in plain sight) probably only payed enough attention to you to see if you were a "regular" and then went back to whatever game he was paying. These are the places that put huge signs outside that say comics, advertise in the comics portion of the yellow pages, but really have zero interest in selling comics-- maybe they did once, and they think that random issues of Ravage 2099 and some 90's Wizards constitutes a comics "inventory." I can't really blame these guys too hard, since their hearts are certainly not in comics, but on the flip side, this is highly detrimental to any new comics reader trying to find a place to buy new comics.

    The Club. I have to tell you. I stopped buying comics for a while. Well, maybe not a trade here an there, but I stopped for a while. Why? Well I moved away from my fantastic shop "back home" and had to set out to find a new store in my new town. The first store I tried was akin to "the dungeon" not quite as bad, but certainly not welcoming, and it was primarily a gaming store (despite the fact that the only signage the store had were HUGE signs depicting superman and spider-man... go fig). So I went to another store in town that was primarily a comic book store. I walk in, and there was no "hello" just two guys looking up from their hero clix game, giving me a "what the hell are you doing here" look. Seriously. I felt like I had walked into the store when it wasn't open. I looked at the comics a bit but was so uncomfortable, that I just left. That was it. I stopped buying comics for about 2 years because I felt there was nowhere to get them. I continued making my own, of course, but never bought any. Finally, through a strange course of events, I felt an overwhelming urge/need to buy again. So, I went back to the shop and just dealt with the icy stares. Eventually the place semi warmed up to me, but it became clear that the clientele of this store, and the people who ran it, were a tight knit bunch, and I always felt out of place. A very short time later this store closed and sold its inventory to the dungeon.

    The lesson here, is that the dungeon (although i was disturbed by the fact that the owner took much of the back issue inventory and liquidated it on ebay) took to the opportunity of being the only comic shop in town pretty well. As i started going there I was one of many new customers from the old store, he treated me the same as he treated any of them, which was nice. And I was much happier going to this shop until I had to move again.

    The Anti-Business. I was passing through Santa Barbara one day and I hadn't gotten my comics for the week, so I thought I'd stop by the local shop. Now, truth be told, I had my kids with me (young boys), and their cousin (also a young boy), so between myself and them, we were like a walking gold mine for an LCS, right? Apparently not. When I got to the store, I walked in with enough people that most LCS's would consider it a "rush" and was immediately informed that the store would be closing in 10 minutes, and there was really no time for me to shop. WHAT?!?!?! I explained that I really wanted to buy some comics. I was told to find what I want and get out. Literally. I could not believe it. I can understand closing is coming, but seriously, when you have six customers in the store a full 10 minutes before closing, you're telling them to get out? Please.

    The To-Hell-With-The-Alphabet. This is your store that would, for all intenents and purposes, be a great store. That is, until you try and find what you're looking for. For some reason, of the most common problems I find in comic shops is that they have NO IDEA how to put things in order so that they can be found. Thankfully, someone devised a great method for organizing anything with a title... its called the alphabet. Maybe you've heard of it? Apparently lots of folks HAVEN'T because I've found a lot of places that completely ignore it. Sure, sure, they'll get creative and, y'know lump publishers together, or lump characters together, or come up with some other creative system to lump things together. No problems in that area. But, even if I walk over to the "DC section" looking for a particular, say, Detective Comics, how the hell am I supposed to know that it would be filed directly in between JLA and Green Lantern Corps?!?! I've made my point.

    The Random Puller. Okay, when I moved down here to Santa Maria, I found a semi-decent shop. At least as far s new comics go. Once a comic got move from "new this week" to "current" status, it would be lost in the oblivion that was her nonsensical "filing system." What bugged me about this store was this: My pull. There were a number of comic in my pull that she had decided to stop ordering, but didn't bother telling me (I thought Madman was months behind schedule, until her store closed and I had to go else where and found all the issues I was missing). On top of that, a number of times she would either not order enough to even cover the pulls, or she would put stuff on the rack instead of the pulls-- ordering so few that if I didn't get there on wednesday, I wouldn't get my comics. Frustrating to say the least. Pulls are like guaranteed business. With the kind of business where a lot of your inventory is a big question mark as to whether you'll be selling it or hanging onto it for years (only to eventually sell it for negative profit in a bargain bin), you think the guaranteed sales would be top priority. Apparently not for some folks.

    ----

    So, a lot of times when you're doing something wrong its obvious, and when its right, its transparent. Such is the case here. I hate to bag on retailers. Like I said, that's not my intent, but there are a number of places that just plain seem to NOT want business, and I find that quite disappointing given the state of the industry. This also is detrimental to the TONS of fantastic stores out there for a couple of reasons:

    1 - It puts off new readers. I would say it would take a huge leap, planets aligning, and probably some telepathy to even get someone new to comics into an LCS. So, when this person has their first LCS experience, if its a negative one, they probably won't go out of their way to search for a positive one. They will think "Okay, this is what comic shops are about, forget it." This person will never go to the good store.

    2 - It can cut people off from the medium as a whole. I, Matt Frickin' Grant (now you know my middle name), stopped buying comics for TWO YEARS. Yeah ME. What does that tell you about negative retail experiences. A two year put-off for me could be a lifetime put-off for someone else. Which means less sales for comics, which hurts the industry, which hurts the good stores.

    I wish I had a solution to this. I'm mostly hoping that this can be a wake-up call to certain retailers that, maybe, didn't realize stuff they were doing was detrimental to their own sales, and the industry as a whole. Maybe we need to be more active in calling these things out. They can bum out the other guys, but us, the CAFP True Believers (thats you and me), we have a higher responsibility to say, "Hey, why not try this." or "Hey I'd be more apt to buy if you did this." I'd be a jackass, if I sat here and wrote a column about what stores are doing wrong if I don't plan to do anything about it myself, and I don't encourage you to do so as well.

    I think we need to approach all of these stores with a positive attitude and offer them suggestions. If it was a random experience at a store you'll never return to, write them a letter, shoot them an email. Give em feed back. And not just "You suck!" Say, "I had a negative experience at your store, and here's why..." or ...here's what you could that would have made me happy..." I think you get the point. These people aren't going to figure it out on their own, or they'd be doing it already, and in many cases a nudge in the right direction might be all they need.

    A lot of times we just file these negative experiences in our head, and they don't do anyone any good there.

    This weeks column is more about YOU than it is about anything else. I want to hear your positive and negative comics retail experiences. I know that each of you has at least one of each, so share em, and maybe we can put together some sort of list of dos and donts, maybe?

    Final thought

    Really take what I said to heart here, folks. We cant just sit around bitching and worrying, we need to get pro-active. I normally tell y'all to give a comic to a friend at this point, but right now, I'm telling you to find something that your retailer (or a retailer you've visited) can improve on, and let them know in a nice friendly manner. I think they will appreciate the input because COMICS ARE FOR PEOPLE.
    _____________________________________________________________________
    Matt Grant is a graphic designer and self-publishing comics and webcomics creator. His comic MastorisM can be read at www.MastorisM.com and updates Tuesdays and Thursdays. A long time comics fanatic and advocate for the medium, Matt eats, sleeps, and breathes comics. Except maybe for those two years... I ate a lot of ramen.

    Matt would love nothing more than to hear from fans, retailers, creators, and publishers that have anything relevant to contribute to his column. He believes that, only by working together, we can bring the comics medium to a wider deserving audience. Please feel free to email him at matt@projectfanboy.com, private message him here, or harass him on the street! Matt does not claim to be an industry expert in any way shape or form, but rather an opinionated pundit on the sidelines.
    Last edited by MattGrant; Thursday, April 16, 2009 at 09:12 PM.



  2. Join Date
    Jun 2008
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    Florida
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    Dude, you need to come to Florida and Meet Rick and the boys from FAMOUS FACES AND FUNNIES, or Aaron and the gang from A COMIC SHOP.

    Or hit Long Island and pop in on the crew at FOURTH WORLD or the wonderful staff at COLLECTOR'S KINGDOM.

    Do you at least have a good place now?

    And, yes, you were right...your column IS Apokolips to my New Genesis!:eek:
    "Living Robert Venditti's Plan B!"

    CAT. 5



  3. MattGrant Guest

    F3 is on my list of places for my next visit to florida. Whenever that may be ha! I'm starting to think if we were ever in the same state our brains might weld together.

    The place I go now is darn good. I drive 30 miles to get there (its the closest spot), but the staff is good, everything is in order, and yeah... its good. Not as cool as your F3, which always has something neat going on.

    To counter act what I said-- which i wasn't trying to be negative... here I go on my negative trip again, i gotta stop that,... here are some of my favorite comic shops by name:

    The Meltdown, Hollywood, CA - Best comic shop ever. My buddy lives around the corner, so i hit that spot every time I go down to visit. Just going in to look around is a treat, much less buy anything. Plus they ALWAYS have fantastic events going on there. No wonder its so famous.

    Lee's Comics, Mtn View and San Mateo, CA - My "hometown" shop. Straight forward, and the standard that I would expect most shops to live up to. They've been around while other stores have come and gone, no surprise why.

    Captain Nemo, San Luis Obispo, CA - My current shop. Its half records half comics/games. A good store, doesn't lose any emphasis on comics despite the split focus. Hell, when i was a teenager, this would have been 100% pure heaven. They have a larger staff than most comics shops due to this, though, and not every single person on the staff is enthusiastic about comics... but what can you do!?!

    Plus, I've taken down the names of some shops near my folks (bay area) that I've spoken to at cons that I want to visit. I'm going to be reporting back on pros and cons of shops in upcoming columns. Hopefully highlighting cool things that shops do.

    I'd really like to get a list going of dos and donts though. I think a lot of shops could benefit through learning what works and doesn't work for other stores. Since these days its one shop (or less) per area, there really wouldn't be any competition issues...



  4. tiggerpete Guest

    my lcs is a mix of a few of those, but the best one in this area is probably Krypton Comics in Omaha, and I don't know the address, I just know how to get there from here. hell, this weekend they had Lou Ferigno in signing autographs. (couldn't go, f***ing work)



  5. JamesFreeman Guest

    If you're ever in Chicago, stop by the Dark Tower or the Lincoln Park Graham Crackers.

    Those are probably the two best shops I've found outside of New York.



  6. MattDocMartin Guest

    Zeus Comics in Dallas TX FTW!



  7. LiamBradley Guest

    Forbidden Planet in Glasgow!

    Kidding, that place has no closeness or even a slight feel of a local comic shop. It's too busy and the staff are arseholes!

    By far the best place I've went to buy comics has to be Kollectibles (next door to a major comic store) where I hadn't been in since I was about 9. I recently walked in and the same man who served me 9 years ago actually remembered me!

    Now that's the way it should be!



  8. JohnLees Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by LiamBradley View Post
    Forbidden Planet in Glasgow!

    Kidding, that place has no closeness or even a slight feel of a local comic shop. It's too busy and the staff are arseholes!

    By far the best place I've went to buy comics has to be Kollectibles (next door to a major comic store) where I hadn't been in since I was about 9. I recently walked in and the same man who served me 9 years ago actually remembered me!

    Now that's the way it should be!
    Forbidden Planet in Glasgow is a great shop in terms of product availability. Kevin, who owns the place, is a really nice guy who I've known since I was a little boy going into the shop with my Mum to buy toys, and he still always makes sure to say hello to me.

    But here's the thing. It's a great shop. But it doesn't really feel like your classic "local comic shop". Forbidden Planet is a franchise now, with shops all over the UK, and even peppered around the world. Going into Forbidden Planet is like going into HMV or Waterstones. It's too "big" to get that personal feel.

    And I fear this is partly why while there's loads of people buying comics in Glasgow, there isn't really much of a comics COMMUNITY. If I ever were to attempt to start up a "real world" Comic Book Club in Glasgow, getting Forbidden Planet involved would be a wise move. They have the potential to reach out to A LOT of comic book readers (and potential comic book readers, who only come into Forbidden Planet for the toys or the T-shirts or whatever), but at this stage aren't really doing it.



  9. LiamBradley Guest

    Yeah the shop has everything in terms of products. But yeah, I don't think there's any real "local comic shop" in Glasgow. Do you remember in forbidden planet years and years ago, when up the back they had the older guy selling all the older more collectible comics?

    When he moved to "Kollectibles" next door to A1 comics in Trongate, FP lost the last little bit of closeness n warmth that a comicbook store should have.

    and in Kollectibles he only has a little wall for his comics, the rest of the store sells different types of collectibles such as football memorabelia.

    Glasgow really could do with a close knit Comic Shop. I've always wanted my own Comic Shop, and I'd make sure it was run the way Comic Shops used to be.



  10. JohnLees Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by LiamBradley View Post
    Yeah the shop has everything in terms of products. But yeah, I don't think there's any real "local comic shop" in Glasgow. Do you remember in forbidden planet years and years ago, when up the back they had the older guy selling all the older more collectible comics?

    When he moved to "Kollectibles" next door to A1 comics in Trongate, FP lost the last little bit of closeness n warmth that a comicbook store should have.

    and in Kollectibles he only has a little wall for his comics, the rest of the store sells different types of collectibles such as football memorabelia.

    Glasgow really could do with a close knit Comic Shop. I've always wanted my own Comic Shop, and I'd make sure it was run the way Comic Shops used to be.
    Yeah, I remember he used to be back there. Then they replaced his part of the store with the graphic novel section. Somewhat symbolic of how the comics world is changing, no?

    Kollectibles (Or City Centre Comics, as it says inside, who knows what they're called), is pretty much the only game in town when it comes to getting back issues in Glasgow. The only other place I can think of is the one near Glasgow University, the name escapes me. But the filing system there is just crazy, the guy's running out of space.

    A1 Comics is a pretty good shop too. But one of the staff there told me they weren't doing Free Comic Book Day this year. Had quite an enlightening conversation with the guy about how difficult the wholesalers make it for stores to participate in the event, charging heavy for an "all or nothing" type deal where they either take the huge heaving piles of dreck no one is gonna read amongst the few featured comics, or take nothing at all. He agreed that the concept of Free Comic Book Day is good, but in practise it is severly flawed. But that's where I think A1 should be taking some pointers from the Shop of Ideas column on Newsarama about getting out there and stamping out their own niche, doing their own things to get people engaged in comics.



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