A Shop of Ideas: Ideology Part 1, NO MORE BACK ISSUES

A Shop of Ideas: Ideology Part 1

Your humble author

Hey fandom! Thanks for reading our last article, it was fun and we really appreciated the feedback. After showcasing our “greatest hits,” we realized it’s easy to pick any given idea apart without the shop’s philosophical underpinnings, so we decided to provide our doctrine. You can call it a manifesto or a creed; it’s the basis of all our ideas and it’s what keeps us passionate. On its own a fake protest against “illegal aliens” or a promotional photo shoot for The Pro could appear silly or fratboy-ish, but after we bore you with our ideology you’ll see we’re more like the frat boys’ professors; just kidding about the boring. We’re breaking the article into five parts; no more back issues, My Free Comic Book Day, format agnostic approach, creativity, and our future vision. We’ll have concrete examples of our ideas in action to keep it lively.

The basic ideology of the shop is entertainment trumps all. We are a shop that views comics as entertainment, not collectibles and therefore every literate soul in our area is a potential comic reader. The collectible model for comics crashed and burned in the 1990s, but that ideology is still how we’re seen and in many cases how we present ourselves. One example is Wizard magazine, a self-described, “magazine of comics, pop culture and entertainment”. So comics aren’t pop culture entertainment? Video games, TV shows and movies should be enjoyed for their inherent worth, but comics should be horded as investments like their price guide (and CGC price guide) dictates?

The comic industry and a comic shop can’t simultaneously outreach to collectors and get new readers to enjoy comics. Every bit of outreach about collecting comics leaves a potential new reader dry. People more often say “I don’t collect comics” and those same people probably don’t collect much of anything, but they sure watch TV, go to the movies, and play video games. No one says, “I don’t like CDs” but people do say, “I don’t like comics”. We feel most of those people have never read a comic book and are really saying, “I have no interest in collecting comics.” They don’t see the entertainment value comics could offer them because comics aren’t marketed that way. If we consistently make a concerted effort as an industry to showcase what entertainment value comics have, we can bring new readers to this medium.

"The Pro"

Comics mean the world to me; they are the pure artistic expression of a few individuals. They feel more raw and passionate than TV and movies. Honestly, comics are what kept me going through high school, each month I’d have a new issue of Sandman or Starman to send my imagination racing! As an adult living through the comic’s bust of the 1990s, I feel it’s now our mission to innovate comic retailing.

Here’s a concrete example that was exciting and freed up resources (both money, space, and time) to win new comic fans: no more back issues! Like Scarlet Witch’s similar statement: It Changed Everything! The biggest complaint we heard when talking to other shops about doing some of the innovative stuff we do is that there isn’t enough time. There’s so much time and money spent sorting, bagging, and pricing back issues at many comic shops. Is that the best use of time for a retailer? Do these back issues make the inventory, labor, and supply costs back? Using that time trying to sell the new product before it gets relegated to the back issue bins is better spent. Hunting down back issues is fun at conventions, but the sheer volume of back issues prevents most shops from having even close to everything, and then if a shop does have a ton of back issues what’s the percentage of space in their store that’s allotted to it versus the percentage of sales they generate? With amazing new stuff coming out every week and tons of re-orderable graphic novels, available space is at a premium. We have so much more time and resources getting new people reading comics by selling them all at cover price instead of maintaining back issues; the potential back issues themselves are a resource. Here’s how, when the graphic novel collection of a title comes out we take whatever single copies we have left, put a sticker about our shop on the cover, and leave them around town. Even as a current comic reader, how many times do you go into your shop and barely have enough to buy the new books for that week, much less look for a back issue to add onto your purchase? We found most customers like the idea that their comic shop has back issues, but don’t really buy them. Most customers buy the new books for that week or a graphic novel. Maintaining recent back issue comics is a tradition, but we feel most of the time it’s an artificial way to “prove” the collectible nature of new comics. Meaning, “You can make money buying these new comics at three bucks a pop, because we have last month’s issue over here marked at four bucks”. Why something that didn’t sell when it was its hottest is now suddenly worth more will remain a mystery to me. If you let your customers know that you’re giving up bagging and marking up the newish comics they didn’t want when they were new, and use those freed up resources to promote comics to new people and have creator signings than they’ll likely support your decision.

The happy winner

If you’re a shop with a reasonable sized back issue section, how do you clear out your inventory? It can be done in a fun way that promotes your shop as well as gaining some quick capital to use for marketing to new people. We found that back inventory only really sold well with a big sale, so we planned the biggest sale. Back issues by-the-pound, with scales and everything, just like drug dealers. To up the ante we advertised a “Win Your Weight in Comics” contest; everyone who came out to the by-the-pound sale was entered to win his or her weight in comics. We had a ton of people come for the chance to win at least a hundred pounds of free comics and they stayed to buy comics by the pound. After this sale we had some capital to use for our marketing and events and the time and space to focus on selling new comics to new people. For people hunting down back issues, we encourage them to have fun doing that at conventions or use a great online resource like http://www.mycomicshop.com.

In the next four weeks we’ll put out a series of articles discussing the limitations of Free Comic Book Day, variant covers and format hang ups, using creativity to sell creativity, and our vision for the future. We aren’t saying we’re the best or only way to sell comics, but we are saying that we feel we have the best methods to grow comic readership. We know with these articles we are talking mainly to existing readers and through the course of this series we’d love to get your opinions. Join the dialogue, leave a comment, recommend the article, or email us directly. aaron@acomicshop.com or jason@acomicshop.com

“A Comic Shop” is located at 114 S Semoran Blvd Winter Park, FL 32792 (407) 332-9636




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