Rod Lamberti of Rodman Comics of Ankeny, Iowa, writes weekly for Bleeding Cool. Find previous columns here. After months of no damages, it finally happened. After my last article, when I mentioned not ever having any damages, the next Lunar shipment we received had damage. I was quite surprised. We looked over the box, and one of the corners had been caved in. It had been hit so hard the second box inside of the outside box was also damaged. The bubble wrap between the two boxes even failed to protect it. It must have taken a heck of a hit from FedEx.
I am hoping this is not a sign of an upcoming brutal shipping season. With the virus and the holidays coming up, I am guessing there very well could be a surge of gift sending through U.S. mail, UPS, or FedEx.
Lunar has been kind enough to get our shipment to us at times the Wednesday before its next Tuesday release date. Nearly a week before release. That is great. Comics I have to reorder get to us faster and makes for quick cash flow. With the holidays coming up, the weather often delays our shipments. Diamond still sends on Tuesdays, though gone are the days of wasting $4 a week for the privilege of receiving comics on a Tuesday instead of a Wednesday. A waste of $208 a year. Yes, Diamond used the excuse the extra money was needed to fund their secret shopper program. For us, this program paid some poor people to act interested in buying two comics on a Tuesday, the day before the comics could be sold, to see if a comic store would sell early and break the rules. There are multiple problems with this plan. First off, the secret shopper had the same script for years. Meaning it was always the exact same thing being said. They just changed the two comics being looked for. If I asked the secret shopper a comic-related question, even as simple as were they looking for an X Men comic or how they liked the current story arc, I would get a deer in the headlights look. I would much rather have seen the money collected over the years by Diamond to have comics arrive a day early or go to better packaging to help protect their shipments.
That said, Bleeding Cool has been reporting some stores are selling their Lunar shipments early. I wish this was not the case. I love getting Lunar early because often I receive shipments late for whatever reason, including bad weather. Even worse for us is when UPS or FedEx makes a mistake, and my shipment goes to another state. This may happen just to my shipment and no other stores that are near us. This creates a loss of sales. The opposite could happen, one of the other local stores does not get their shipment, and then we see an increase in sales because we have product they didn't receive on time. Regardless of receiving shipments several days before they can be sold really can be helpful. If a delay happens, it does not mean we are waiting, hoping what we ordered will show up the next day and not being sure if it will. Lost time to sell means lost sales.
When Lunar arrives early, it takes the worry out of wondering if the shipment might not get in until after the release date. When we do the inventory check on the shipment, customers may be in the store and request we hold an issue due to seeing the actual comic. They may see a cover and decide they want it. We aren't selling early, though we are still benefiting from getting the shipment early.
When the Diamond shipment gets inventoried, it can be a bit more challenging because it comes on a DC release day. While we are doing the Diamond shipment inventory, people may ask for comics before we have them checked in. This may happen especially for the one per store variants and so forth. We are closed on Mondays so getting DC's new release day product ready for Tuesday is easy. For instance, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Last Ronin arrived last week. We did not get our full order with other stores in the same boat. The regular cover is clearing $20 online, which brought people in hoping to pick it up and flip online. We needed to make sure everyone who requested it before it became super-hot got a copy. There was a one in ten covers also requested. We needed to make sure someone did not try to sneak it on hold for cover price or something. The 1:10 variant for Last Ronin is going for $30 online. The person who asked for the one in ten variant months ago for the agreed price of $10 will get it for $10 because it is what I agreed to. Yes, I screwed up and forgot it was cover priced higher and was not a $3.99 priced book.
I do wish Lunar would not have set their minimum ordering at $500 a month. We will easily make the minimum. Even if it was weekly, we would make it. I worry about the new comic stores. $500 in DC Comics could easily be a bit much for a brand-new store trying to get started. Many stores carry more than comics. Stores that carry other material might be interested in trying to carry comics but see the minimum as too high to start with.
Recently it was announced Lunar would be taking over all distribution of DC Comics to comic stores. That was quite a surprise. Will Lunar be able to keep up the level of customer service they have been offering to increase comic stores they will serve? Will they drop to Diamond's level? Hopefully, the high-quality stays.