Bad Comic Book Stores

Teenage Wasteland

Photo by Flickr user Elston

When I go on road trips, I usually make a point to stop by comic book stores. I like comics, and to me there is nothing more fun then scouring around for a while. Any way, on one of my vacation day road trips I stopped by a comic book store that wasn’t so hot. It wasn’t as bad as the picture, but pretty bad nonetheless.

So what did they do wrong?

  1. The most noticeable thing in any comics store is the new issue racks/walls. Some stores leave some of the previous issues behind what is the most current issue. To me this is fine; it markets the recent back issues well. Unfortunately at this store, there was just a hodge-podge of random comics. Behind the most recent issue of Deathstroke was a few back issues from the early 1990s series, and some Power Girl stuff from last summer. That didn’t make any sense.
  2. Nothing was on sale. It was like they ran this store as if it was still the nineties and you could get whatever price Wizard was listing. There is a reason why dollar bins are so popular; reducing the price of your back stock or over-orderd comics is a surefire way to get it out of your shop and generate sales. Those old Marvel Fanfares will never sell at “guide price” but for a dollar people will buy them. Or those Stormwatch and WildCATsbooks that you’ve paid off years ago.The same could be said for their selection of graphic novels/trades. If you read on Bleeding Cool or Comics Beat, you can periodically see that the publishers have mass discounts on their back stock. I know retailers would rather not have to discount anything, but they have to sometimes. Just let it go.
  3. The back issues had a really arbitrary pricing scheme. Certain things that should be cheap were expensive. Things that are rare were bargain priced. And the other two-thirds of the back issues weren’t priced at all. What the heck does that even mean? Is it cover price? Do you haggle? Do they have some sort of commodities tracker that bases it hourly on what is sold on eBay? I had no clue and as too embarrassed to act.

At the end of the day, I couldn’t deal enough with this store to actually buy something. What are some of your comic book store nightmares?

What Your Local Comics Shop Can Learn From Borders

073011_8724 Borders Book Store
The Borders in Las Vegas, Nevada is going out of business, as are the rest of the Borders nationwide. Frown. Photo courtesy BoydsWorld (http://www.flickr.com/photos/boydsworld/)

Let’s face it, the economy sucks. Falling stock prices and credit ratings are all over the headlines. Super bookseller Borders fell victim to the economy. So should your local comic shop worry?

Well, yes. I mean the economy is very volatile and getting funny books isn’t the biggest priority for many fans of late. But look on the bright side. With Borders no longer in business, this gives comic shops an opportunity to serve a customer base that’s used to getting their comics fix from a big box store. So as a long time comics shopper, here are some helpful hints that I would like to share. You can all thank me when your business goes up.

You've already got customers like the Big Bang Theory guys....lets expand your customer base!

BE NICE TO YOUR LADY CUSTOMERS– Graphic Policy estimates that at least 25% of comic book fans are women. That said, don’t ogle them when they come into the store. Don’t hit on them. Don’t be creepy. Do be pleasant to them. Ask what comics they are looking for and if you can help them. Basically be respectful. You don’t want to alienate one out of four of your customers.

SHED THE SLEAZY STEREOTYPE– This kind of goes with the last one.  One or two pin-up posters of Lady Death are tolerable, but don’t have your store look like a shrine to early 1990s cheesecake comic art. Not only does this make women feel uncomfortable shopping in your store, but it also dissuades parents from bringing their children in. And with no new readers, there goes the business.

IF IT DON’T PAY THE RENT, IT’S GOT TO GO– Having the largest selection of back issues in town is very impressive, but at the same time it’s costing you money and taking up a lot of space. Obviously, the first appearances of Cable and Deadpool will get you a nice sale, but the rest of your New Mutants back issues are probably going to sit for a long time. Lower the price on them and make them more affordable to your customers. That’s how you can move inventory. There’s no reason it should still have the inflated price that you found in a Wizard magazine twelve years ago.

KEEP IT CLEANED– No one shops in a messy store. Also, keep your inventory organized. It makes it easier for customers to find issues or trades. If someone can’t find something, you’ve lost a sale.

MERCHANDISE THE MOVIES– When there is a comics movie out, whether it be X-Men or Batman or even Ambush Bug (we can wish, right?), make sure you have their product accessible. You might have some new customers looking to get back into their favorite characters. Also, figure out how you can promote comics at movie theaters when comic adaptations come out.

DON’T JUST SUPER HERO IT– We all know that super hero comics are the 800 pound gorilla in the comics room. They make the most money. That said, you have to find a way to sell focus indie (ie not super hero) books. If the writer of Justice League has a crime noir graphic novel out, put them near each other and make some signage to let the customer know. If someone loves Ed Brubaker’s Captain America, they might be willing to try Criminal. 

What other hints do you have for comic book shops?