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Comic Store In Your Future – Businesses Taking a Beating

Rod Lamberti of Rodman Comics of Ankeny, Iowa writes weekly for Bleeding Cool. Find previous columns here. He writes,

This is the first full week of being closed due to the Governor's mandate along with our first Wednesday of no new comics. Nearly ten years ago it never crossed my mind that a virus would cause so much havoc and change. A virus was just something some movies had as their plot. Viruses were issues that seemed to happen in other countries, not here in America. Those lines of thought are now long gone. New York has seen over 1,200 deaths. Iowa currently is at 6 deaths.

rodman comics business
Credit: Rodman Comics


Businesses are taking a beating. The comic market may very well come out of this changed forever. Comic collecting is a habit. One that for many could be broken the longer no new comic material comes out. When a comic store closes, their customer base is forced to change their buying habits. They no longer can buy comics where they could have been buying comics for years. Some will go to the next nearest store or one within what they consider a reasonable distance. Some will stop collecting comics altogether. We have people that stop in every week that no longer will be doing that. Their habit will be forced to be broken.

On Saturday I stopped by my business twice to pick up material to list on eBay.

Both times people stopped by even with the sign on the door that said closed due to the governor's mandate, postings on Facebook and our web site stating we are closed. The phone kept ringing with people wanting to know if we were open. I understand why GameStop wanted to stay open. People are cooped up and wanting something to do with their sudden downtime. I talked with one person who works from home and usually is a homebody. Now that the government has closed so many businesses she feels trapped and wants to get out. It is human nature.

I had thought I would be listing more Magic the Gathering cards on eBay.

Then I saw how most card prices are falling. I would say that is because of two reasons. One, a lot of peoples' jobs are in limbo and two, a lot more businesses are using eBay and are online to try to sell their products. I ended up listing a few Magic cards along with graded and ungraded comics. Fingers crossed.

Not going to lie, I along with many Americans are feeling pretty stressed. This whole not knowing when or if things are going to return to normal sucks to be blunt. As human beings, we want and need control in our lives and right now we do not have that.

Some positives on the store side of things did happen. Wizards of the Coast announced they will be sending at no cost to stores more booster boxes of the latest Magic set, Mystery. I have no idea how many or when but I do thank them for announcing that.

Then I received an e-mail from DC.

I almost did not read it. Usually, DC sends something about their new cartoon show or something that does not impact my store. This one surprised me because it was on a Saturday so I clicked to open it. Holy smokes. DC finally sent something about all this craziness. It was vague though mentions trying to figure out how to get the product to stores. Long story short, they may not use Diamond as the vendor to get comics to stores. DC also announced they are making their comics fully returnable for a few months. I thought, Great news! I posted the letter on our Facebook page. I emailed them back saying, you guys get me new comics and I will personally drive them out to customers. I also posted on Facebook about DC's letter and that we would deliver comics if need be. Ten likes and one comment later people seemed happy. The comment? "Oh man!!! If we could see another distributor other than Diamond, that would be amazing."

It is not perfect. I would rather have all the publishers' titles that we normally order. Though only DC titles would be better than no titles. I would also become a delivery driver. I have been reading about other businesses doing it in these troubled times.

The plus side would be gas is currently cheap. Comics would be getting to people and the store would have cash flow other than from eBay. The other plus would be a quicker turn around on sales at times. I have people who now are really wanting comics that they have had on hold in their pull box because we are not open. Again, it's that whole human nature thing. Up to this point, the biggest headache we were having business-wise was new people starting a pull box and never coming back. It was really weird and bad. They would start a pull box and never pick up a single comic. I've done this too long. I would meet a person once and know they would never come back even though we explain the rules with pull boxes and they say they will be back. It is just the world we live in. Me calling people saying their comics are in and I can deliver them would cut back on products being on hold for too long.

The whole social distancing would be in effect. People would pay before I get there. I can easily just leave the comics on the person's steps, go back to my car, watch the person get the comics, wave, hopefully, get a wave back and away I go.

Again, it is not ideal.

Though the longer no new comics come out, the more customers the comic industry will lose. It is all about habits. It is far easier to keep a customer than it is to get new customers and regain lapsed ones. Thus, the reason the comic industry has had so many variants over the years. They play to the customers already buying comics. I have never had a brand new person getting into comics say they are looking for a variant cover.

The argument that some states will get comics and some will not may hurt comic stores is not a good argument. That was already happening with some states closing down businesses before others. If Iowa does not let me sell comics and Missouri does so be it. It still does not change the fact we still could not sell comics and would be making the same amount of money on new comics than if Missouri could not sell. "A drowning man will take down those nearest." Blocking sales for others on assumptions is not going to help anyone. If Iowa does not let me sell new comics for a year and Missouri can after two months it does not matter if Missouri or any other neighboring state can or cannot sell comics. My store here in Iowa is done for regardless if we can not sell comics for a long period of time.

This week we should get an update from DC and hopefully know more about what they are going to do. Hoping this is all over within a few months and for the best in these crazy times. Stay safe everyone.

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Rod LambertiAbout Rod Lamberti

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