Hastings, The Largest Comic Book Chain In America, Is In Trouble

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By Ian Melton

News broke on Friday that Hastings Entertainment Superstore is changing their policies at all of their stores throughout the United States and that layoffs and store closings may be in the companies' future as they search for investors to put capital back into the business.  As well as making employees and the public aware of these issues Hastings has changed their "buy back" policy for used items and are not taking reservations for upcoming items. Hastings, founded in 1968, has stores throughout the United States, predominately in the Midwest and Northwest, but is headquartered in Texas, where the first layoffs at their main distribution warehouse are expected unless an investor or buyer is found to help stabilize the company.

Hastings is a unique business utilizing several media company models including selling new books, music, videos, video games, media merchandise, and weekly comic books, as well as buying and selling used merchandise from most of those categories bought directly from the public.  The comic book element is one of the most newsworthy as Hastings is currently the largest Diamond account in North America, perhaps the world, and is the only store that can claim to be a nationwide comic book store in the United States.  Dabbling in selling comics for years, Hastings kept a newsstand account, making all their unsold comics returnable, but in recent years store sought to carry a depth and variety of material that is not available to newsstand agents.  Hastings switched to a direct market account with Diamond Comic Distributors in 2012 and began also selling store exclusive variants, beginning with the popular Avengers Vs. X-Men #1 variant depicting Deadpool collecting bets from villains on who would win between the two teams.  Since then Hastings has sold store exclusive variants from IDW, Image, Boom, Dynamite, and predominantly from Marvel, as well as recently from DC Comics, including the upcoming Batman #1, after the publisher lifted their embargo on store exclusive variants last year.

However, the variety of Hastings stock may be its downfall as the company has ended up with a massive backlog of merchandise.  Each of the markets that Hastings caters toward has unique sales tactics and customer bases, and ordering tactics for one type of merchandise rarely translate well over to the other types.  In previous years, Hastings comic book ordering policies seemed to have worked with one massive order being placed with Diamond and then broken up among the stores leaving many of the stores with a large amount of comics that weren't sellable in their demographic, translating to a glut of back issue stock Hastings still can't get rid of.  Also large purchases of back issue collections from closed comic book stores having been sitting in Hastings back issue bins, often containing large amounts of previously unsalable 90's comics, leaving Hastings with a sizable comic book inventory it can't move, and such "unsaleable" stock is not just limited to the comic book department.

Nevertheless, Hastings penetration in many areas throughout the United States that are not served by stores that tailor to these markets gives Hastings a strong potential as a business.  Many comic book collectors that have no local comic book store turn to Hastings as the only viable place to go purchase comics every Wednesday, and specialty merchandise customers aren't likely to find unless they travel to a larger city.  The loss of Hastings would impact customers in these areas greatly, and the loss to Diamond of their largest account could cause great problems for the direct market in general. Documents that Hastings public issued yesterday  can be found here:

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.