Comic Store In Your Future – A Wizard Did It

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

It has been a wild year. Sales slowed for us more than usual after the summer was over with. Back issue comics are booming. We have people that are much more interested in older comics than current comics being issued. To combat slowing sales, we will have more sale days. New comic sales slowed slightly for us and Magic the Gathering sales slowed a lot. Our Magic sales slowed thanks to Wizards of the Coast (the company behind Magic the Gathering). It started with this year's Commander set and continued with the Collector boosters and Brawl decks. I received only a few of each even though I tried to get forty booster boxes of the Collectors boosters. We were also informed how many we were getting within seven days of the release date. This caused us to cancel most of our pre-orders. We received fewer Collector boosters than we received of the previous–what at the time was limited store exclusives– From the Vault sets that Wizards stopped selling. We at least knew we would receive ten From the Vaults and planned accordingly. Big chain stores were able to get more of the Collector boosters than we were. Basically, Wizards of the Coast told customers to go to the big chain stores instead of us even though Wizards of the Coast wants us to host gaming for them and the big chain stores do not. More recently the same thing happened with the Throne of Eldraine Gift Boxes. I found out the Monday before the release date we were hardly getting any. Why promote something that is hardly worth receiving?

Wizards of the Coast had already ended selling directly to stores, earlier in the year. This is what is going on with Wizards of the Coast. Say I want 50 copies of an upcoming Amazing Spider-man issue. I simply order it ahead of time and as long as Diamond does not accidentally short me, I receive them and try to sell them. I factor in pull customers and how well it is currently selling and will try to sell all 50 copies. Wizards of the Coast has allocated product in the past though never this often and this much in the last few months of this year. Say I order 40 Throne of Eldraine Gift boxes, get less than ten and I do not even get notified about the final number until days before the release date. That means fewer sales because we never had a chance to sell many. That also means it is a waste of our time to promote a product that we will get so few of in. Imagine Marvel telling me no, you will not be getting 50 copies of Amazing Spider-Man, we are only going to send you four copies. Not only shorting us, but also letting us know days before it comes out. That is what we dealt with for the 2019 Commander, Collectors' boosters, Brawl Decks, and Gift Boxes. Wizards of the Coast hurt our Magic sales. We make more off a $3.99 comic than a Magic pack that sells at $3.99. We finally received more 2019 Commander boxes a month after the local big chain stores received their second round, so of course, demand is less.

Another drawback is we originally thought we would be spending thousands of dollars on the Collector boosters. Like all businesses, we have a budget so that tied up money for no reason. Money that could have been spent on other products such as comics, Heroclixes or other games.

And of course, Wizards of the Coast wants us to spend time and money hosting gaming for them. Comic publishers do not expect that of us and are currently much more reliable so as a business, who should we support?

Next year's announcement of the Mystery set release from Wizards of the Coast have left many of our Magic customers scratching their heads. The whole set is just reprinting past cards with some not even being a year old. Some of the cards are from the most recent set, Throne of Eldraine. The set is currently for sale at Magic conventions.

Wizards of the Coast seems to want less and less of our business. They are turning away smaller stores. This is shown in a previous article about a smaller shop in Bethany, Missouri losing their ability to host official gaming for Magic thanks to Wizards of the Coast. Wizards will not sell the pre-release boxes for pre-release events to them.

A quick google search shows Bethany has a population over 3,000. Good luck getting hundreds of Magic players to turn out for gaming events with that low of a population base. We have players who drive from fifty miles away to play. Central Iowa has multiple places to play. The odds are lower the further one gets away from central Iowa until getting to the cities on the borders. Wizards of the Coast wants big gaming stores selling its product though overlooks a lot of the population and areas of the country. Wizards of the Coast had their own stores years ago and closed them. They could not make it work though now want others with fewer resources to succeed where they failed. Now Bethany has nowhere to play pre-releases and if the Magic players in Bethany want to, they would have to drive 100 miles to the next nearest place.

What has the store in Bethany done? Increased their orders on comics and decreased the money it spends on Magic.

When I first opened, I never dreamed a business would not want to sell to everyone they could. From small businesses to big chain stores I figured a business would get all the sales possible. It would be like me telling people who only spend $3.99 in our store each month we don't want their business. $3.99 is not enough to move the sales needle though what I have learned is in the future they very well may be spending over a $100 or more a month, though they never will spend more if we refuse their business in the first place.

Wizards wants more of a focus on gaming, their product and less on other areas a small store may make money in. Wizards of the Coast shows by going more with them and less with other companies that Wizards does not make money from how quickly that could turn out poorly for a small business store. Wizards does not tell chain stores such as Wal Mart or Target how much Magic they have to carry, how to display their product, how their stores have to look or how many gaming events they need to hold to get product. Wizards of the Coast lets Target and Wal Mart break street date when they sell before a new product's release date. Only on non-chain stores do Wizards actually enforce the rules. Wizards do not have to sell to a store if they do not want to, imagine carrying nothing but Magic products and suddenly Wizards states some reason they do not want their products sold in said store. That would be a tough situation for most stores. A situation no store would want to be in.

Comic Store In Your Future – A Wizard Did It

About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.

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