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Comic Store In Your Future – Figuring Out What The Heck Is Going On

Rod Lamberti of Rodman Comics writes weekly for Bleeding Cool. Find previous columns here.

We keep hearing about how the economy is doing great. The stock market is (or was) doing great. Tax cuts for corporations will make the economy even better. Low unemployment. And so on.

Though we keep reading about various comic stores closing. Toys R Us is having trouble (they still managed to give their higher ups bonuses). Comic sales as Diamond tracks them are currently down. Along with other not so good news.

From my side of the counter dealing with people I truly have not heard of anyone getting ahead much. The comment of "I am finally back to where I was before the recession hit" is common. No one is saying they received a big paying promotion. No one is saying they are feeling like they are really getting ahead. Some of our customers received bonuses recently but, know they got a bonus because where they work at already had the money on hand and they would rather have received a decent raise. Before the recession hit people felt like they were doing good and the future was bright. Nowadays? Not so much.

Often when people come in they want a deal. This bookstore offers "buy one trade get one free", will you? Or I get told they can get this cheaper offline. It is human nature to want to feel like one has received a good deal when buying something. Though often times even though a person saved money on something (maybe something as simple as 20 percent off a comic book) they blow the money they saved and then some on something else. It is about priorities and what is taken for granted. Our original HeroClix players wanted discounts non stop. Play here for hours for nothing and then not spend any money. A $1.30 Iron Fist Heroclix that a person after playing here for hours for free wanted 30 cents off of it. They then would go out for beer and pizza after playing here, having no problem spending far more and having nothing to show for it afterwards rather than spending money here and having something to show for it. All the hours playing here for free? When I ended it there was just frustration because I wouldn't let them hang out for free anymore. All the hours used to host for their gaming didn't matter at all even though I explained to them they should just play at one of their houses or apartments because I would make more working at a fast food chain then letting them play HeroClix for free. They had no problem with me not making any money for my time.

Same thing with the original Magic crowd.

Cheap people are not good customers.

I learned if I let people take advantage of me they would. Simple fix. Don't let people do that.

It would help if people felt like they were getting ahead. Am I better off than I was years ago? Yes, even if my store would close tomorrow I should be alright. Knock on wood. Of note, I did have another business in the past and the store is not my only source of income. What do I hear? So you are doing better! I better be, I worked over the last seven years tons of hours. I too feel like for the amount of time I worked I should be ahead more. It is human nature.

The economy is doing well enough that people that want a job should be able to get one. Maybe not a high paying job though still something.

Starting this month I trimmed the hours of the store even more. I saved a lot of money last year on payroll. Now I am trying to save more. After reading the Previews about the upcoming comic selection I do not see the comic market improving still. Our sales are up this year though, that is due to a store closing. Not the ideal reason to have an increase in sales.

Retail is a high employee turnover business. Spending money and time on employees that might not be here long is not attractive. As all businesses that have been around for years, we have had good employees and some not so good employees.

As I stated before the air at the store needs to be fixed. That is roughly going to cost $2,500 dollars. We can cover that. The question is what other unforeseen events may happen?

Magic sales were down for Wizards of the Coast last year. I wasn't surprised. None of this makes me go 2018 is going to be a great year.

Am I nervous about fewer hours for the store? Yes, I worry that I may cut into them too much. I had a person recently contact me through Facebook asking if the store was closed because he stopped by while it was closed thinking it was open. Facebook had the store's updated hours on it. I had posted an announcement about the new hours on Facebook. For weeks before the store switched hours we were telling people when they stopped in about the upcoming change. I also had a sign announcing the new hours before and currently. The open sign had the new hours on display but, there will still be a few people who will just assume we closed for good.  It is my hope come summer time to expand the hours again since summer historically is our busiest time. People have more free time typically during summer for collecting.

Our Wednesday hours are unchanged since that is our most important sales day. New comic day is our bread and butter. Tuesdays I should have cut back a long time ago. I have been open that day mostly to get the new comics ready for Wednesday.

I have been on hand more at the store currently.  The pros to that are one less staff member on hand to pay. People do like to deal with the owner of a store. Productivity is high when I am here, or at least I like to think it is.

The negatives about me being at the store more.  Other things are not getting done. Even if I am not here at the store there is still plenty for me to do. From the comfort of my own home, I can sell online for the store. Paperwork, such as taking care of the store's bills and making sure the staff that is still gets paid. If people know I own the store often times they think "Oh, I must hit the owner up for a discount." I  had one person come in here and tell me he just moved into town and at his old store they would give him free comics.  My no response was not a hit with him.

Being light on staff means less value to the store. Say I wanted to sell Rodman Comics. It should be almost fully functional without me. If I need to be here that means it is too focused on me.  Odds are I am not going to come with the store if it were to be sold, so it isn't as valuable as it should be. Fully staffed with a manager would be ideal.

Why don't I just pay more, I have been asked. This, to some, is going to sound bad but, people either have the drive to work or they don't. I was talking to a friend over lunch who worked with me at one of my first jobs years ago. It was in a mailroom. I made $14,000 a year. We joke about how we worked our butts off for low pay. We were never late and always within our lunch hour. We, of course, worked our way up to better-paying jobs as hopefully everyone is able to.

I have no problem paying what people are worth. Though there are people that have the ability to earn more than what I can pay them. We had a person quit to go into their chosen field of programming. I freely admit I could not match or beat that level of pay.

People want to make a lot of money but not spend money.

It is all part of the circle. People want cheap services and goods while at the same time higher pay.

After a few weeks of the new shorter hours the only day that is down so far sales wise is Thursday. Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays have all seen an increase in sales. It is almost like reverse psychology.  We are open for fewer hours and now people want to make sure they make it in. For instance, some days the hour before we close could be a very slow hour. Then five minutes till we close ten people show up.

I do feel come summer time I should have more people on staff.

For the record, Rodman Comics isn't on the market. I have had people want to become partners and have said no. Though by saying no I have stopped new money coming into the store.  I am indeed too hard headed to sell. If Rodman Comics ever did go under odds are I would just donate everything that wasn't sold to Goodwill. I currently couldn't sell out. It just feels wrong.

Usually, though not always, collectables do well when the economy is doing well and not so well if the economy is doing poorly. After all, collectibles are not necessities.  People need food and shelter. When money gets tight collectable hobbies usually get cut or trimmed first.

I try to look at everything from all angles. I have learned long ago I will not be able to make everyone happy. I also learned that one solution or way to doing thing will not take care of everything.

Hopefully, wages will start to increase for everyone and people will start getting into more of a spending mood. After all, we keep hearing how well the economy is doing….

Comic Store In Your Future – Figuring Out What The Heck Is Going On

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Rod LambertiAbout Rod Lamberti

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