Since the pandemic, lockdown and shutdowns that affected the comic book industry, a number of comic book publishers increased the amount of comic books that they made returnable to comic book stores. The idea was to protect retailers from sudden changes of demand due to stores having to close, customers not able to shop and economic strictures being imposed. Of late some publishers have reduced that returnability but it still remains at a greater level than it once was.
One result is that it has been easier for retailers to order tiered variant covers at 1:50, 1:100, even 1:1000 if they are free to return the overordered amounts. But with more and more variant covers, the process of returning comics has become harder and harder, with even the cost that Diamond Comic Distributors charges for making a comic returnable, not covering the process.
Now Diamond's Purchasing Department, in coordination with publishers, is making changes to programmes that feature returnable and variant cover incentives. Diamond states that they will continue to support publishers' returnability programmes but only in a more streamlined fashion. Publishers will still be able to offer returnability on products offering two or fewer covers, but not for products with a greater number of covers. Diamond states that administration and maintenance costs for both Diamond and retailers will be better managed in this scenario.
"We spent a great deal of time over the past several months analyzing the data we've collected on returns," said Geppi Family Entertainment Chief Purchasing Officer Tim Lenaghan. "The overwhelming conclusion was that books with more than two covers had return percentages four to five times greater than those with two or fewer covers. Return percentages increased even more when incentive variants were introduced into the equation."
Diamond is requiring that newly solicited product in 2021 only include a returnable incentive for books that have two or fewer covers as part of their solicitation. Publishers can continue to offer more variants and incentive variants on any books that are not returnable.
"We recognize the often-valued role that both types of incentive programs play in the marketplace, and our goal is to focus these programs in a way that benefits both publishers and retailers," continued Lenaghan, "Tracking and submitting returns on books with multiple covers is a time-consuming, cumbersome process for both retailers and Diamond. Additionally, this streamlined approach should assist publishers in determining which programs are most effective in driving their own sales efforts."
Previously solicited or announced programs will continue to run their course in the coming months, but the goal is to phase out any combined approach by the end of the second quarter of 2021.
Which means that the many-covered-and-returnable Keanu Reeves' BRZRKR with its 1:1000 variant cover should be able to just squeak in. Expect this to be one of a number of topics at today's ComicsPRO retailer summit.