Not to belabor people, but there has been a lot of doom and gloom on the main message boards about how the comic book business is dying. There is no question that sales are soft, they are soft everywhere, we are in the middle of a recession that has high unemployment around 9.3% according to official statistics (it is probably higher).
Since I sell comic books, you have to sell what the customers want. Without a physical store (sorry folks, I don’t know how a physical store stays open, when ever I run the math I go out of business within a year or two) it is impossible for me to say what physical store sales are like. What I do know is that online sales are booming, and in my opinion people are still buying comic books (based on my own sales), but they are shifting where they go to purchase comics.
My thoughts on this is that the only “mom and pop” left on main street will be the gas station because people have to go there. Everyone else on main street has to cross over to the web entirely or work out a suitable compromise of web sales and physical sales to keep afloat. Of all the comic book stores I have seen close, they relied entirely on physical sales only, they just don’t get the Internet.
Regular comic book sales may have slowed down, but your customers are going someplace else to go along with that slow down. We regularly visit comic book stores, but see nothing I want to purchase. There has only been one comic book store out of the dozens where the sales person said hello, are you looking for anything in particular? The comic book stores I have visited are still dark, dingy, with dead people posters on the wall. There is no real knowledge in the store, rather it is all about the Diamond top 100, and frankly those are getting pretty stale.
So here we are at this impasse between the much heralded golden age of comics in the 1980’s (just so you know that was 30 years go), and the reality of today with stores crammed with crap, in a tight market, in the middle of a recession with high unemployment and I need to feed the kids and go buy gas. Yes, unless the business model for these stores changes, unless they start getting the Internet, unless they start doing social media, and unless those stores start cultivating alternative sales channels, well you know, there will be a liquidation event in their future.
Over the next couple of months I am going to talk about what I am doing to cultivate a new generation of comic book readers. Those that are online all the time, shop at eBay or amazon in the dead of night. They are out there, and they want comic books, but they don’t want what you are thinking they want. These are not the people who have subscriptions in your store, these are people who are looking for the unusual, the different, the complex. These are folks who are looking for Slave Labor Graphics and Devils Due Publishing. These are folks who want Zenescope right next to Yen Press (which has had a 1,900% increase in sales this year). Your customers want it all because they can get it all on line.
So my hope is that you will enjoy these columns as they grow out and start filling in the blanks for what sells and what does not sell online.
Yes the comic book industry in general is on life support, there is enough doom and gloom out there for the industry. But realistically it does not need to be that way, so let us work out how to bring back the comic book industry one web site at a time.