Brian Garside is the founder of Manage Comics, subscription pull list software for comic shops, and he's dedicated his life to helping comic stores grow, survive and thrive. This post is part of his series "Managing Your Shop".
The world of retail is making a drastic shift, and the comic store model will have to shift as well. Pamela Danziger writes for Forbes that over the next two years, there will be 30 percent less retail space than there is today.
When you read this, you could take a "glass is half empty" perspective and see this as the beginning of the end.
You could also choose to be more optimistic and realize that there are opportunities to continue to operate a profitable comic store while still offering customers a physical location with great customer service. For those that want to be optimists, here are some ideas for how to survive this shift in the world of retail.
Bold Idea: The Zero Inventory Comic Store
Part of the problem in the comic business is keeping costly inventory that sits on shelves and never sells. All of that inventory takes up lots of square footage and requires unpacking, cataloging and the use of time that could be spent more productively by employees. The notion of zero inventory stores in the retail world is part of the new approach to brick and mortar locations.
The idea of zero inventory seems counter-intuitive with comic shops, but the reality is that sell through on products with more than 30 days on the shelf is getting increasingly rare. If it is on the shelf for more than 30 days, product will likely require steep discounts to move.
The zero inventory model fits perfectly in the comic space, even better than many other retail environments. Pre-Orders allow you to order exactly what needs to be ordered, and lets you decide to only order extra on select product that you want to hand-sell.
Create a Social Hotspot
Your comic store can become an oasis for comic lovers. There's no reason that you can't explore additional streams of revenue including beverages and even food. You can have live music, comic signing events, comic art showcases, and more.
Your store doesn't have to be wall-to-wall of inventory that won't be moving quickly.
You can create a place where people can come and enjoy the atmosphere and shop at the same time. Making your storefront available for other streams of revenue, or perhaps as a way to build a customer base is another way you can come out ahead in the retail shift.
Having a Strong Digital Presence
Your online presence will dictate your profitability. The comic business is perfect for the online space. Comics are visual and the artwork is perfectly conveyed through social media or a website. Comic enthusiasts are eager to read about the artistic process, reviews of recent and upcoming releases, and so much more that are essential to fandom.
A solid digital presence will help your business reach far more customers than in just your local community. A physical storefront shows stability and strength, but the digital presence gives your voice a megaphone. The more you embrace social media and the power of the cloud, the louder this voice will become.
Incorporating online sales with your physical retail store allows for physical interaction with products where customers can shop with their own eyes, and interact with products but purchases are made digitally.
This fusion of digital product management and fulfillment with live experiences is finally beginning to take place and businesses that are quick to adapt will be the ones to survive.
Comic Store Management Software
Comic stores are beginning to use management software. This software keeps inventory based upon what you need rather than what you guess you need. As the profitable comic store world moves to a zero (or near zero) inventory comic store, using software to manage customer subscriptions will keep the inventory you do maintain in the store constantly moving.
Using technology will help you navigate the waters of the retail paradigm shift. Technology is a powerful tool that can keep your comic business in the black, or add new life to a struggling business.