As San Franciscan comic book retailer Brian Hibbs pointed out on Bleeding Cool the other day, comic book stores have been ordering non-returnable product before the coronavirus hit, and before new market conditions took hold. Image Comics and Dynamite Entertainment have made all their comics returnable, but they make up around 8% of the market. Well, today Diamond Comic Distributors, the biggest pop culture distributor announced some major changes concerning how they do business. As well as Free Comic Book Day becoming Free Comic Book May, they are implementing additional cleaning, hygiene, social distancing, home working and allowing stores to put their account on hold – receiving no new product until they are ready for it. Stan Heidmann, President, Geppi Family Enterprises has provided the following, with Bleeding Cool redacts for private information.
Our Coronavirus Progress
As was mentioned last week, our Employee Wellness and Business Continuity Teams are meeting daily to address the needs of our customers and vendors throughout the disruption caused by the Coronavirus. Today, I have some updates on our progress that I wanted to share.
We and our publishing partners are continuing to work on a comprehensive plan to address the health of our industry. There have been numerous remedies discussed, and more information will be made available to you soon. We understand and share your concerns and are doing all that we can to ensure we address the various challenges in a way that's geared to the long-term health of the industry.
Our Distribution Centers
As we became fully aware of the Coronavirus and its impact, we immediately stocked each of our Diamond Comic Distributors and Alliance Game Distributors distribution centers with gloves for the employees and implemented enhanced cleaning policies, as recommended by the CDC and other authorities. We have monitored the health and activities of those teams, and advised employees of what procedures they should take if they have any symptoms of illness.
Through professional organizations who host webinars and conference calls with the CDC and other experts, we have been in constant contact with those who can best direct us in how to handle this situation. We are also working closely with our employment agencies and local authorities, continuing to monitor the distribution centers' best practices to ensure the safety and security of our supply chain and our ability to consistently deliver product to the retailers who need it.
Geppi Family Enterprises' and Diamond Comic Distributors' Home Office
To safeguard the health and safety of our team members, we have enabled as many people as possible to work from home. As the professionals remind us, the best way to slow and eventually stop the spread of this virus is through social distancing, even when that is a complex process.
Beginning March 18, 2020 our Hunt Valley, MD office will be operating with minimal staff until further notice. Team members will be working remotely while processing incoming support tickets, orders, and answering questions. We have tested our various systems and modified our internal communications procedures, and are confident that we can continue to effectively serve the customers and vendors who rely on us during this disruption.
Local Closures and Interruptions
With towns and states considering mandatory closings of "non-essential" businesses, we anticipate many of our customers being affected. Those customers may be required to close to the public or could see reduced traffic as members of the service industry are off work and concerned with their incomes.
Some retailers have turned to innovative changes, such as curbside service or even local delivery to better serve their customers. This may not be an option for everyone, but is likely to make customers more comfortable swinging by to pick up their books if they don't have to come inside. It should also satisfy local rules about stores being "open to the public" and / or gatherings of 50 or more people. As always, consult with the local authorities if you have any questions.
If you are in an area where your store will be closing or significantly impacted, you may contact Retailer Services and request that your account be placed on hold until you're ready to begin receiving product again. You can also request a different delivery address, should that be necessary at some point.
The Binc Foundation & ForgeFund
We have explored resources that may be available to help you and will continue to share those we think you'll find helpful. One such resource that we're proud to support is the ForgeFund. The Binc Foundation (www.bincfoundation.org) and the associated ForgeFund provide support to individual comic booksellers, including store staff, who are affected by various unexpected events. They provide a great service to our industry, and their website includes information on how affected comic booksellers can apply for one-time grants to help them weather these difficult situations. We will be looking for additional ways to support their efforts, and any retailers or publishers who also want to contribute can contact Kathy Barton, Binc's Development Director, at email@example.com.