Rod Lamberti of Rodman Comics of Ankeny, Iowa, writes weekly for Bleeding Cool. Find previous columns here. He writes of 2020 and 2021;
2020 is over. With 2020 gone, our hope is 2021 would be much better simply because it is a new year. The Capitol being overrun by rioters was quite the shocker. That said, I ran across a meme. It basically said just wishing 2021 to be better is not going to be enough.
For much of 2020, my focus was making it through 2020. Being shut down two months, wondering if the store would be forced to close for good, and working more to do my best to ensure we did not have to close was basically 2020 for me. In December 2020, a customer came in and bought some of the gift-wrapped five-pack comics we were selling and asked we donate them to a charity. That was really nice of him. We also had a manager of a pizza restaurant supply us with coupons for free pizza or breadsticks. We randomly included them in the gift-wrapped comics along with one gift certificate from us. I ended up donating the gift-wrapped comics the customer bought along with a donation of more comics from us to Orchard Place in Des Moines, Iowa. What is Orchard Place? They provide behavioral and mental health services for teenagers and kids.
Looking back at 2020, I realized one early donation to a school sports team was the only other donation done in 2020 by me. Usually, most of the donations we make are school-related. With schools being hard hit by covid, it changed things. In 2021 we can easily do more, and we should.
The end of 2020 had a few good things happen. Wonder Woman 1984 hit the movie theaters. I thought with it being streamed on the same day of its release to movie theaters; it would only be a little bit of help for movie theaters. It helped almost all movie theater stock bounce up and helped movie theaters open due to covid. We had a private showing for WW84 where eighteen people showed up. I did laugh; there was a preview for Black Widow, and at first, it said "coming in November!" I thought, oh, it had been delayed again until November 2021. Then the final cut of the Black Widow trailer stated it was coming November 2020. Not quite. I found the end credit of WW84 end quite cool and hope they do use it in the next Wonder Woman film.
For 2020 our sales took a beating due to being closed because of the virus for roughly two months. That said, in-store fourth-quarter sales were better in 2020 than in 2019. For December, having the day after Christmas fall on a Saturday instead of a weekday as it did in 2019 helped. In October, we celebrated our 10th anniversary, so it very well could have been a factor for our October sale doing so much better than the previous year. I would have loved to have a comic pro at our anniversary though covid, of course, put a stop to that idea. Maybe if things get better this year, we will.
Historically, January is the slowest month of the year for retail businesses. Peoples' bank accounts are recovering from holiday spending. My plans were to rotate stock and use the slower month to get other things done, such as getting the back-issue bins back in order. People just love to put comics back anywhere in the bins. I came into the store on January 2nd after being closed for New Year's. I thought it would be a slow day, but I quickly found out I was wrong. It was like we were having a sale, even though we weren't. It was easily one of the best Saturdays we have ever had without having a sale. What happened? Stimulus money had already started hitting peoples' bank accounts. Last Saturday, Jan 9th, was another great day. I had one person call to let me know they had $600 dollars to spend; hmmm, wonder where that money came from? On the 9th, I sold multiple graded comics along with ungraded comics such as She-Hulk #1 vol 1 for $150 dollars and Moon Knight #1 vol 1 for $75. Our back-issue wall took a pounding. Which of course is good.
What comics from a galaxy, far, far, away, are currently red hot for us? Star Wars comics. After Disney announced so many upcoming Star Wars-related projects, our back-issue bins are getting raided for Star Wars material. Dark Horse Star Wars comics? I wish we could get more.
Other back issues I wish we had on hand and had a ton of? Batman Long Halloween. So many people have been asking for it. We have the collections though not the original comics.
Action figure sales had been slowly inching upwards sales-wise for us last year. Really missing the DC action figures announced in 2019 for 2020 that never happened, such as the animated Batman Deathstroke and DCeased line. The biggest surprise and the biggest boon for us for the end of 2020 and the start of 2021? Transformers action figures. I did not see that coming. We carry the larger, more expensive Transformers such as Omega Supreme, Jetfire, and Scorponok and had success with them. The smaller, less expensive ones up until recently would slowly move. Currently, new Transformer action figures are super popular. Now, I want my reorder from Diamond for Transformers to replenish what is sold out to get here as quickly as possible. New Transformer action figures prices are exploding online, Cyclonus himself retails for $20. Going for $60 online. Here in the store, Transformers are bringing in people each day that have never been in our store but are searching for and buying Transformers. This is, of course, great.
Another popular toy line from the 80s has made a comeback, G.I. Joe. The G.I. Joe Classified action figures are a big hit in-store, and I am looking forward to the new upcoming figures this year. So far, I have been able to order Lady Jay, Flint, and Zartan that are due out.
How are the DC action figures doing for us now that Todd McFarlane has the license to produce them? Good question. With the figures going to mass retail chains, I at first decided not to order them. People have asked me to have them in stock, so I decided to order a case. I have seen a case for them on an invoice though I have never actually seen the figures from Diamond arrive. I have emailed twice asking if they are still on their way, did they get shorted, or what happened. Oddly enough, still not a word back. If they were shipped, there should be a tracking number. Usually, Diamond just slaps a shipping label on the outside of a case of figures and sends it as is. In two weeks, if they have not shown up, I guess I will send the check for the shipment minus the cost for the action figures and then wait for someone to contact me asking why if they still have not arrived, I did this.
Sports cards demand is crazy right now. People have been calling and walking in, wanting to know if we carry sports cards. We never have though people keep hoping we do. After so many people have requested sports cards, I finally decided to check into it. I was shocked to find only one of my various vendors carry sports cards, and to get into sports cards through them would require a major commitment money-wise to purchase sports cards. This surprised me. If I want to order a board game, I am able to order one board game. After ACD lost Wizards of the Coast as a product line, I am surprised they are not trying to get into the sports card business.
2021 for us is off to a great start business-wise. Hopefully, this year will be better for everyone.