Comic Store In Your Future – But You'd Have to be Nuts to Open One Today

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

Nuts. Currently that is how I feel the comic market is right now and if someone wanted to open a new comic store I would think they were nuts. Eight years of Rodman Comics and I will admit years ago I never thought it would be like it is now. I do often wonder if we had opened in the last two years if there would be a Rodman Comics still around. The fact that we are established helps a lot. People know us.   Years ago things were different. As much flak as it gets the New 52 in 2011 did get us jumpstarted with new customers. Wizards of the Coast's Magic the Gathering products were more profitable for us years ago. The comic publishers and Wizards of the Coast amaze me currently with how they do business. When I opened I always assumed we being the stores that sold their products, the more we sold the more they made money and thus it would be something they would always support. Years later we have DC selling exclusive comics to Wal Mart by some of their best talent and Wizards of the Coast seems focused on gaming stores having just people playing their games instead of spending money on them. Wizards of the Coast had their own gaming stores once and they failed. To me it is like Wizards of the Coast is saying hey let us see if we can have a third party with less resources do this for us and who cares if they lose money on it as long as they do it. Over the years we have had less and less Magic gaming, the diehard Magic people just hang out at stores because there are stores foolish enough to let them. If Magic gaming was more profitable then yes we would have more Magic gaming. All those Magic die hard buy their material online and hang out for as cheap as possible at a store. It is much less time consuming and money efficient for us to simply sell online than be babysitters while making less than actual babysitters do.

Comic Store In Your FUture - But You'd Have to be Nuts to Open One Today

Thinking about opening up a comic and or game store? Save up money. Money is very important. Odds are to open and after opening a new store a lot of money is going to be burned through. Deposits for various things will be needed. A store owner may never see this money again. My deposit so I could rent the current location has spent the last eight years in limbo.

If a person does open a store be prepared to deal with people and organizations that will make you feel like you and/or they are nuts.

A store owner may spend thousands with various vendors on products, odds are if something happens they are not going to cut you much slack. A store owner will learn that they are for the most part on their own. I accidently sent a payment to Alliance to the wrong Alliance address, then I got a call letting me know never to let it happen again like I had ripped them off or something. Diamond is not worried about if one store goes under or not. Diamond is the only business whose products I sell that wants me to spend more money to get on with their comic store locator service. It costs $50 a year so a person can go to the comic store locator website and use the comic store locator to find a store. I just typed comic store locator on google. It brings up along with the comic store locator link a link directly to my store along with other stores in my area. Not much reason to spend extra money for it. Wizards of the Coast will list a store that sells their products for free on their website and odds are Wizards of the Coasts website gets a lot more traffic from possible customers than Diamond's.  Wizkids, the makers of Heroclix also offers a free store locator for stores that sells their products. Diamond often does not view the store that sell comics as partners, more as customers to squeeze money from. Diamond has the famous secret shopper program to monitor comic stores and charges stores for it. Wizards of the Coast and Wizkids do not do that to their customers.

When I google comic stores a link also shows up that has Yelp lists the top ten comic stores in Des Moines also comes up. Thankfully we make the top ten even though we are not located in Des Moines. A few other minor facts, there is not even ten comic stores in the Des Moines area. For some reason a record store that does not look like it carries any comics comes up first. Plato's Closet Ankeny comes up next. It is a thrift store. The Shield Comics store also manages to make it. Just one little odd fact. It has not been open for some time. Last yelp review for Shield Comics was in 2016.

Spending too much time reading reviews of your own store could very well drive one nuts.

The internet over the years I learned is not as important as it is hyped to be. Yes, Facebook and other online sites wants everyone to think their service is the greatest and for everyone to use it as much as possible. Facebook will send me messages that I need to respond to a message if the other person responded with anything. Meaning if the other person after an online conversation says thank you we will be in tomorrow if we do not respond with something Facebook makes it seem like we are ignoring the person. I post often on Facebook and even on days I have posted I will get Facebook notations saying my customers have not heard from us in a while and I should post something even though hours earlier we did.

People can easily change a store's hours on google. I learned that when a customer said you guys are closed on Wednesdays? I was like on new comic day? Heck no. Google changed our hours without any research. We have a website and Facebook page with stated hours.

Online reviews are not important. As I have stated before the stores that closed in the area had perfect ratings. To me that says they did not have enough people coming in. With large groups of people it would be impossible to make everyone happy. We have reviews from people that have never been in our store. I left a review for a store in California that I had never been in. I could leave reviews with businesses all over the world and not even be with in a hundred miles of the business. It is that easy.

The publishers will drive you nuts. Marvel does manage to keep surprising me. This month an onslaught of War of the Realms books along with Spider-man books is coming. Marvel just is unable to maintain a hot selling property without milking it out for all they can. Wolverine is no longer a top selling character. Uncanny X Men is being shaken down with the not very popular Age of X Man books. Immortal Hulk sells well currently though I dread when Marvel will decide to have a Hulk event or Hulk spins offs that will hurt Immortal Hulks sales. Marvel is currently its own worst enemy. They are owned by Disney and despite Joe Quesada thumbing his nose at DC years ago when AOL bought DC and saying DC should sell more because they were part of such a big company he keeps perfectly quite now that the Mouse owns Marvel.

Currently there is three different comic or comic related stores in the Des Moines area. That is not good. As a teenager I remember off the top of my head at least being able to go to twice as many stores. Dragonfire Comics was the comic store I went to for over a decade. There were more comic stores then and the comic market was much better and could support more stores.

As I have stated before if the comic market gets so bad that there are no physical stores left to sell comics there will not be a market that can support just online comic sales.

I received a Shazam poster for the Shazam movie to promote the movie. That to me is nuts. I am to promote people spending money elsewhere instead of my own store. How about sending some comic posters to the movie theaters and seeing what they do with them?  If the new local movie theater is not going to promote comics than why am I promoting movies for them?

Comic sites and clubs that claim to be comic related often spend their time focused on the comic movies instead of the actual comics.  Same story as comic conventions, many comic conventions have very little to do with actual comics. The comic community seems to be losing more and more focus on what they say they represent.

It is all enough to drive a person nuts! A one way trip to Arkham Asylum.

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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