Comic Store In Your Future – The Plan For World Conquest

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

Summertime is historically our busiest time.  A time when I try to prep the store to take advantage of peoples' free time. Setting various upcoming goals for the store and myself.

In July, we will have our next Rod Deals. I have already had people asking when the next one is. It is popular. To think I almost did not go through with the idea years ago. The goal for this one is to set a record in sales. However, more importantly, another goal is to have a record profitable day. July 14th is the day I choose. It is a week after Magic the Gathering's prerelease for that month. Having a prerelease so close to a holiday I feel is a bad move.  We also went from quarterly prereleases for Magic to monthly currently.  Our sale will be the day after a new set of Magic comes out.

Getting ready for Rod Deals is a lot of work. On Saturday, I worked on the mystery boxes that are popular for Rod Deals. The work is worth it.

Another business here in Ankeny, Plot Twist Bookstore is having a "Find Waldo Local in Ankeny!" event again this year. It will start in July. It was a good event to get kids into the store so we will be a part of it.

Training our employees to increase sales of our products online.  Especially Magic cards. Magic cards are easy to sell online. Small card or cards that easily fit into a small box for shipping making for a low shipping cost.  Over the years, I have seen many Magic cards go for a pretty penny then suddenly fall to super cheap. I have learned to go for the pretty penny amount instead of holding on to something hoping it will continue to increase in price. At times a hot collectable will keep going up price wise, most of the time though; the collectable will peak out and drop in the short term. Overall collector's mentality has changed. Gone are the days when how old something was played a big factor in collectables. Heck, many old comics from when I was a kid were more expensive than they are now. The internet played a big part in changing the value of collectables. It made collecting much easier.

My goal is to get better selling "hot" collectables online. As I have stated before a new store exclusive comic may go for $50 or more online and we may not be able to get that in store but online, heck yes.

Take a break. I know I need to walk away for a bit and get recharged. Been working a lot. As much as I enjoy the store, some things do happen that throw me for a loop. We had a good person who was a customer pass away. It was a shock to me since last time I talked to him we had no idea it would be the last time.  Dealing with groups of people you find out there are good people in the world. Another customer just found out about a health scare. I know if I am on my deathbed, I am not going to say I wish I had worked more. Trying to set up a trip with a friend to get away for a while. I am currently in the "bad" habit of not just relaxing but trying to work a lot. On Memorial Day, I found myself inventorying cards and thinking this is supposed to be a day off dummy.

Get more organized. As I have stated before we have plenty to do. Ideally, everything we have in store for inventory should be listed on our online website for sale. It is a massive project though, one that should be a priority. I currently have someone who is a heck of an organizer. Such as instead of sticky notes for notes let us have an excel spreadsheet showing what needs to be done and has been done. I admit I had a sticky note habit and an excel spreadsheet is much better than looking through sticky notes.

The backroom. When we were not open on Sundays, it was much easier for me to get a group together and get the back room organized. Now, not so much. The front of the store is much more important. Keeping it organized. Keeping what the customers see as a clean well-organized space is the focus. I have people surprise me and tell me how clean our store is compared to others they have been in. First impressions and lasting impressions are important. Cleaning can be boring though necessary. That said I need to clean the bathroom Sunday. Fun, fun. People that come in on Tuesdays while we are doing the inventory at times think we have a mess of a store not knowing it is just because we are getting ready for new comic Wednesday.

Watching and waiting for the comic market to improve. Not much of a plan. As I have stated before there is only so much a store can do. If the product is hot and in demand a store needs to be clean and have a friendly staff and be able to take advantage of the demand. Lack of demand is often out of a store's control. It is like the movie business. An example I have used before. A theater can be clean and well ran but if a movie has little to no interest then they do not sell many tickets.  With the year about half over and about ready to place orders for comics again  I am still amazed so much time has gone by that Marvel hasn't regain their popularity as a publisher. Yes, they sell comics through their nonstop renumbering and variants but many of the actual readers have yet to come back. Marvel's Joe Quesada was once critical of DC for multiple things now Marvel is in the same boat and he does not say anything. He bemoaned years ago that AOL owned DC and they were not using their resources to push comics more. Now Disney owns Marvel and the same thing is going on. Joe also compared DC to a porn star that could not get it up. DC has some of the most known characters in the world but did not know what to do with them. Now with so many Marvel movies, their characters should be better known than ever but their comic sales have not increased. Which is very bizarre. The Harry Potter movies helped the Harry Potter books and Harry Potter became even more popular thanks to the movies.

There are two stores in Iowa that I know of that have comics in their names and do not carry new comics anymore. Gaming is more profitable for them so they dropped carrying new comics.  That is not a trend that comic publishers want to see. DC in my eyes seems tired of being beat by Marvel and now is using more of Marvel's publishing methods such as the renumbering trick. We have new first issues of Justice League and Titans along with more $3.99 books. Marvel looks to be pushing $4.99 more and more.

I love comics and have enjoyed them for decades. Still do, loving Doomsday Clock, that last issue was a blast for old school fans like me. Hoping to see Marvel return to being the House of Ideas. DC leading instead of following. The comic market improving. For that to happen the quality of the average comic needs to improve. I can only sell what is supplied to me.

I will always plan to sell comics until it is not possible. Which hopefully that never happens.

Wizard World being in Des Moines proved to be a boon for us. People from out of town came in and spent money. One person bought two statues. I hope Wizard World is able to make it back next year and that I am able to make it. June 2nd, the Saturday they were in town has so far been the busiest day I have had of the year. I was unable to make it into the store until 7 Saturday night to run a prerelease for Magic. I hope that next year I can be at Wizard World.

Mark Millar borrowed an old idea from Marvel's past for his upcoming Magic Order #1 from Image. He has stated there will be no second printings for the first issue. Instore, Mark Millar has cooled off a lot. Years ago, he was popular. His no-second-printing announcement caused some interest in his latest project. I increased my orders. It will be interesting when it comes out how well it sells.

Go through the back issue bin. I have started this project a few times but have not had the time to finish it this year.  There are people that will for whatever reason pull out back issues, look like they are going to buy them, then decide to just randomly put them into the back issue bin.  Some are just lazy or some are confused by the titles. Such as All-New Wolverine is not filed under Wolverine.  One of my favorites is when people pull out a stack of random back issues and decide they do not want them and leave a stack on the back issue bin and just leave. Just creating work for no reason. Years ago, I had an odd situation; I noticed that Batwoman issues from the new comic wall was for some reason were showing up in our back issue bin. They were not bag and boarded like back issues and it was always the newest issue of Batwoman. It caused me to order more Batwoman issues at first because I did not know that was what was going on. I did not know they were in with the back issues. Finally spotted a person who grabbed multiple copies of the latest Batwoman issue off the shelf and thought that is odd. He ended up hanging out for a while and then put them in with the X Men back issues and left. He was trying to be all sneaky about it. It was like pretend shoplifting or something. Did not buy anything. I am guessing he read my website because I wrote about it and never seen him or had anymore new Batwoman issues wind up in the back issue bin afterwards. There are kids who parents do not care what they do. Meaning they go through the back issue bin and just pull out comics and put them back anywhere as if it is a fun game to them. Not too long ago had a parent who let their kids pull out not only the comics but the comic dividers also, randomly putting them back. Then of course, I am the bad guy when I ask them not to do that. These things cause comic book store owners to become like the Comic Book Guy on the Simpsons.

We used to have boxes of 25 cent Magic cards. The Magic players would get upset because they were not in order. It was because they were originally in order but people just threw them back in any order. I had a former employee who could not stand that the cards were out of order. He wasted so much time putting them back in order, the boxes would not last a week before being a mess. He would not listen to me either about how 25 cards are not worth the time of always putting back in order. One time, two days after one of the boxes were put back in order, a person knocked off the whole box dumping cards all over the floor. I ended up throwing out boxes of cards because it just was not worth carrying cheap Magic cards.  I got smart and just had the cheap cards included with the cards that were worth something in the same set in binders.

Decide on what new projects to push through. I would love to get a mini-comic con here in Ankeny. Just one comic creator, all vendors related to what we carrying in store, small since it would be mostly comic related. Give away comics for kids. Right now though is not the right time.

Invest in a second location. If the comic market could get on more solid ground, it would be something to push ahead on. Again, the time is not right. However, as they say, wait too long and it will never happen.

I will force myself to take a break this summer. A burnt out person is not much use to anyone. With graduations to attend this week and so much non-store related things going on, I feel like I am putting things off. I do not like doing that. Being on top of things and being prepared and well organized are things a business needs to be to help improve its odds of not only surviving but also growing.

"What are we going to do tonight?" "The same thing we do every night, Pinky. Try to take over the world."

About Rich Johnston

Head writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world. Living in London, father of two. Political cartoonist.

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