Hastings was the one that started it. Selling a large range of direct market comic books in every store (okay, some more than others) but instantly impacting on the comic book industry, lifting sales and providing a new place to order exclusive variant covers and the like. With around 5% of the direct market stores, they has an instant, if benign, affect on America's marketplace.
But Hastings only go so far. They aren't in most states, have 136 stores nationwide and are mostly in the South Central and Rocky Mountain States.
Hot Topic has about 650 outlets around the country and has recently been moving in the direction. A lot of comic book themed clothing and accessories, they geek-related companies, have been selling exclusive variant covers of comics… and now, it seems, about to start selling the DoubleTake ten-packs of their new Night Of The Living Dead-based zombie comics.
That's just one item though. It looks like it's a large shift towards a new place to buy regular comics.
650 new accounts for Diamond Comic Distributors? That will increase the direct market outlets in the USA by a quarter, overnight.