Comic Store In Your Future – We Reopened Where is the Product?

Rod Lamberti of Rodman Comics of Ankeny, Iowa writes Comic Store In Your Future weekly for Bleeding Cool. Find previous columns here.

This month's Magic Pre-release for Ikoria arrived May 15th along with the release day material that usually shows up the following Friday. My vendor for the shipment really let me down. Weeks ago, I asked to have this sent to my home because at the time the Iowa governor was saying May 15th was when we would be able to reopen. In order to have the product inventoried, entered into our computer system and ready for sale on the 15th we needed to receive it by the 14th. Monday I was told they needed my address again.

I forwarded the email I had already sent that included my address. Oddly enough I had a bad feeling about the shipment with everything going on. I sent emails to the vendor asking if everything was alright. Called even. Never got one response back which surprised me. Finally, on Wednesday I got a hold of my sales rep and was told the shipment was on its way. It would be at my house that day or the next.

I said that is odd, usually I receive an automatic email from UPS with the tracking info before it is sent. I was told he would check it out. Not long after, an UPS email showed. Great, whew I thought. Then I read it. The tracking numbers had simply been created, the labels were just made though nothing had actually been sent out. I called multiple times again.

Got a hold of my sales rep again told him the labels were just created. Was told he would check on it and get back to me. Never got a return call. Called at 4:45 p.m. left another message. I checked the tracking numbers again after 7 pm. It came up that UPS had picked up the packages from the warehouse. Whew, I thought they can still make it here for tomorrow, on Thursday.

I then noticed a few things, they were not going to my house, they were going to the store. Whew, again, I think. The governor announced more relaxed restrictions so UPS should be able to deliver the Magic shipment to the store.  Then I notice it said, which it did not before, the shipment was in Tennessee. I was stunned. I have always received product from this vendor from their warehouse in a neighboring state which only takes a day to arrive. My sales rep is not even located in Tennessee. I am guessing due to the virus, the vendor had to use Tennessee and not the warehouse they usually do when dealing with my store. The tracking also let me know sometime Friday on the 15th I would get the shipment.

It was being sent UPS ground so it could be any time before 9 pm. Ouch. Thousands of dollars of product might not be available when we open through no fault of our own. We will not be using that vendor again. Even to this day I have yet to receive any email or a phone call about the order. I simply switched to another vendor for next month's Magic pre-release. Thank goodness Magic uses multiple vendors.

That is how my week was. All of sudden, getting new product in is incredibly tough.

Tuesdays have been great. Fun seeing the people that enjoy comics. Our customers are hungry for new comics and hopefully can wait a bit longer for more new Marvel comics. I wish I had more say in all this. I am glad there is finally more than one vendor for comics. Diamond could use some competition. After they almost went under hopefully people learn having more than one vendor is ideal. If I only had the one vendor for Magic that just caused issues for me, I would be in trouble. There are multiple vendors for Magic the Gathering and Magic does quite well.

I made a mistake thinking the first Diamond shipment in a while would have Marvel Comics. It was a pretty weak first shipment, no offense to the comic publishers that did have comics come in. I had a lot more people excited when DC's first handful of comics came out. I had a new shipment of Heroclixs arriving this week, Justice League Unlimited. Be interesting how the Heroclix fans take to the set after the delay for it. For Marvel, six new comics this week after all this time? Then to slap their fans in the face they are skipping the next week for new comics? Wow. For myself and my store, Diamond is making it tough to make a profit.

Let me put it this way. Magic had two weeks' worth of product release on the 15th after their latest set Ikoria was delayed. The actual pre-release gaming in store was cancelled due to the virus. It sold very well. It easily will be one of the most profitable Magic sets for us. No staffing was required to set up gaming and watch the players. No extra hours for the gaming, just straight out selling thousands of dollars' worth of product.

Then we have Diamond and Marvel slow-playing the release of new product. This is a terrible approach. I had people spending hundreds of dollars on the Magic set. It is true we have people who can no longer afford to collect Magic or comics. We also have people who are just as well off as they were before the virus hit and those that even have more money due to the extra unemployment and or stimulus checks.

I am in no way trying to belittle people who are currently having financial problems. When the Great Recession hit it took me six months to find a new job. Those six months quite frankly sucked. The not knowing what my future would be and if and when I would get a job was a drag. I was very fortunate to find a better paying job with way better benefits. During those six months I went through a void of not even being able to get a job interview for some much-needed hope. Those six months were part of the reason I opened Rodman Comics years later. I wanted to be my own boss and be able to better control my own destiny so to speak. I have of course learned it is not that simple. The economy and peoples' buying habits have limited influence by me. This virus situation is very much its own demon. If a second outbreak does happen and it scares people even more to the point where people are even more afraid to go out and or spend money that is something beyond my control. That said during those six months of being unemployed my comic collection was not my top priority and I did not expect the comic industry to wait for me to get a job.

Right now, Diamond and Marvel are holding back and that is holding back an actual comic comeback. Our Marvel fans are not happy. To have new Marvel titles come out then skip a week where there are no new comics is just foolish.

Marvel's announcement that some of their titles are not coming back to monthly printed comics, but instead going to digital and then trade collections has really upset the people who were buying the printing comics. DC shocked me by announcing some of their titles would be doing the same thing. Supergirl is not going to finish out her run in print? Supergirl, here in store, outsold each one of the Marvel titles that Marvel announced would not be coming back in print. I strongly dislike telling my customers about titles they have been loyally getting are just suddenly done. I am unable to sugarcoat the news. Thanks for buying these titles when they come out; don't worry about getting any more of them though, they are going straight to digital and trades. Thanks for buying the previous issues though. No money wasted there.

How to get people to stop collecting comics seems to be the new playbook. If I can sell thousands of dollars' worth of Magic and have strong Magic sales then I am willing to bet we along with a lot of other stores are able to sell thousands of dollars' worth of new comics. We just need to be able to buy them. DC is making headway for us by actually putting out product. Marvel is basically slapping peoples' hands away that want to buy their comics by skipping a week. Granted DC's announcement of having Supergirl and the Terrifics going to digital did not make them any new fans.

If new rules come into effect, I will try to adapt to them. If I have to deliver comics to people I will. Right now, starving comic collectors and comic stores is not the way to go.

Comic Store In Your Future - We Reopened Where is the Product?
Comic Store In Your Future – We Reopened Where is the Product?

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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