Nominees For Diamond Comics Retailer Best Practice Awards 2021

The Diamond Best Practices Awards (BPAs) are returning for 2021, to demonstrate comic book industry "best practices" in comic shops. The current round of Best Practices Awards, being announced next week, seek to honour achievements in Back Issue Display, Community Involvement, In-Store Signage, and Store Layout. Retailers can vote from their Diamond accounts for the next week.

Best Back Issue Display

Comicazi
Somerville, MA
Our Super Premium Back Issue Display is truly a sight to behold! This display is specifically for back issues priced at $30 or higher — the cream of the crop! We have devoted 2 entire 6-foot glass display cases to our most top tier back issues, with clear pricing & bright stickers to indicate first appearances or key issues so even the most casual customer can understand why these books are so special. Right next to the showcases are our custom-made bins for the rest of our Super Premium collection, built by a local craftsman to our exact specifications. Here you'll find more premium keys in mylars, with 2 display rails above that rotate regularly. The lower shelves hold front-faced & labeled first appearances. The bottom-most shelves hold comic storage bags, boards, boxes, folios, frames, & more. Everything you need to start building a collection or supplement an existing one with quality comics.

Comics on the Green
Scranton, PA
If new comics are the life blood of comic stores, then back issues are the spine. Customers of all ages go through our back issues every week to find colorful, affordable and dynamic issues of their favorite characters and love to browse the shelves on the wall and buy pieces of nostalgia. Back issues sell very well and we try to keep our boxes stocked with something for everyone. The regular customers and the newbies say our back issues are organized, well lit and our shelves full of treasures some have never seen in person. I'm nominating our store on behalf of my boss (without his knowledge) who makes sure that anyone who needs something to complete their run, buy their dream book or find the perfect gift is able to here at Comics on the Green since 1992.

Nominees For Diamond Retailer Best Practice Awards 2021

Famous Faces and Funnies
West Melbourne, FL
When you have over 400 boxes of back issues, it can be a challenge to display them in innovative, aesthetically pleasing, and organized ways. While most of our back issues are organized the traditional way- alphabetized in long boxes, we have discovered minor key comics sell like hotcakes if they're pulled out and displayed on their own. That's where using our massive wall space to our advantage comes in. The wall above one side of our back issues has become the home to hundreds of minor-key comics. Since the display is in our backroom, we only rack comics under a certain price but that has in no way deterred the popularity of this display.    Having the comics on display makes the key comics (once stuck in long boxes surrounded by their $3 siblings) easier to shop from for every type of customer. While there's always plenty of staff on hand to help locate items, having all the minor keys in one spot cuts down on the search for both staff and our customers, especially those that are too nervous to ask about a book. Comic hunters no longer have to dig through long boxes to see if we have that hot $20 book and casual comic fans can indulge in a "cool" book without needing to know everything about it or where to find it. The easier you make it for a customer to shop for something, the more likely they are to grab it whether it was their mission to buy it or whether it is an impulse buy.    We've also made it easy for die-hard comics fans and new fans alike to understand WHY a book is a minor key. Each book gets a post-it note label with its price in bold marker numbers and a short reason why (if there truly is one) that makes the book the price it is, whether that's because it's a first appearance, a hard to find variant or any other variety of reasons. It's not the most high-tech approach, but it's certainly the easiest way to convey the information to the customer without overhandling the books. It also comes back to that idea of making it accessible for everyone; it can be daunting to start collecting books that are not lower cost and we want everyone to feel armed with the appropriate information. It also helps customers understand we are not just arbitrarily raising the price of a book. Everyone walks away from the display with as much information as we can convey to cut down uncertainty and all it takes is a little bit of time, a fresh sharpie, and a box of Post-its.    Since we started displaying minor keys this way sales for keys have increased tremendously. Within the next month, we're expanding the rack to run along another entire wall so we can spread out the keys even more and have room to expand with books from future collections.

Nominees For Diamond Retailer Best Practice Awards 2021

Generation X Comics
Bedford, TX
We have been unsatisfied with our back issue displays for probably 25 years. During the pandemic we decided to finally do something about it. So I talked to several other retailers with nice displays and decided to use file cabinets for my back issues. I also added shelves above the cabinets to add a pop of color and to make them more distinctive. Plus I added large signs to the sides of the racks to draw more attention to the area. Finally I added some shelves to stand up glass cases in order to display my more expensive back issues.    The change was dramatic. The area is very visible and screams "BACK ISSUES HERE" to anyone nearby. Back issue sales doubled almost immediately. This change impacted the look of the section and we've received rave reviews from customers.

Villainous Grounds
Perryville, MO
During the time we were operating curbside (March 15th 2020 to June 1st 2021) we took the time to put all of our back issues on our website.  It was a good time to get everything neat and tidy.  So many shops are dark and dingy but we have used LED lighting to help make everything bright and easy to read. Since reopening fully we've had good feedback about the space.  Customers have commented on how well organized everything is and they love being able to see under the shelves. A very talented local artist and friend, @mateja_custom.artwork, designed a comic around our shop and now we have our own comic book character, Ink.  Damien created a few panels to spice up our space.  Ink really adds to the atmosphere!

Zia Comics
Las Cruces, NM
Zia Comics purchased the back issue comic bins from the local Hastings when they went out of business.  These bins are deceptively voluminous.  All back issue comics are sorted alphabetically with plastic dividers between titles.  Dividers are annotated with the title on a label printer tape for ease of reading.  There are displays to explain to customers how the alphabetical flow runs through each display and into the next.  All comics are bagged and boarded to preserve their condition.

Best Community Involvement

Famous Faces and Funnies
West Melbourne, FL
Famous Faces is a store that prides itself on its community involvement. Over the last 27 years, we've grown from a booth in the flea mall to an 11,000 SF pop culture superstore and that would have been impossible without our community. We love our community so much that we try to be as involved as possible.   Pre-Pandemic  Before Covid 19 changed the world, Famous Faces would be at any event we were invited to or could make space for in our ever increasingly busy schedule. Any chance we had to put a comic into someone's hand and introduce ourselves, we would. Movie theater premieres, weekly trivia games (written and hosted by FFF staff with gift cards and graphic novels as prizes), school events and field trips, community events like Archeology for Autism, Zombie Walk, First Responder Day, etc would all be worked into our monthly schedules. It wasn't often that we would sell at these events, it was just a way to meet our community and get people interested in comics and say "Hey, there's a cool place you can fit in". Without fail, in the week after one of these events, we would see new faces we met at the event come in. Not only would we show up to any community event that would have us, but we gave back to our community in any way we can. We've hosted charity events, donated to dozens of Kickstarter projects, given away thousands of dollars in books, toys, graphic novels, and more for donations, donated proceeds to customers who were in need, and championed at-risk kids in our community through reading. Why? Because we owe it to our community to take care of them like they've taken care of us. When you find yourself in a position to do something, you should and we always seek out opportunities to do so.      During Pandemic That said, the pandemic certainly changed how we interacted with our community. We voluntarily closed from indoor shopping for eight months in 2020, but we never forgot about our community. We set up a curbside station and offered contactless curbside pickup for our regular nine hours we'd be open, we delivered comics to those in the surrounding area twice a week for no additional charge, and we launched a huge live sale schedule over Facebook to continue to bring comics and collectibles to our community. We even threw in free bonus sketches drawn by talented local artists themed around what they bought. The community met us with intense enthusiasm, and we've had multiple people tell us how much joy and stability the sales brought to their lives. It wasn't just about buying something and supporting a small business, it was about the comradery that developed and the distraction from the chaos that made the sales successful.   We've only recently gotten back to being fully open, but we are very grateful that we made it through the worst of it because of our incredible community. Famous Faces is a community in and of itself now, and we wouldn't change that for the world.

The Comics Closet
Shrewsbury, PA
For the past 5 years we have been involved in giving to Toys For Tots.  Most of what we donate comes directly from the shop itself and we also run promotions to get customers involved to donate toys.  We had the grinch in the past two years and had photo ops in exchange for a toy donation.  We also run a 24hr Save Against Fear campaign every November to raise money for Children's Miracle Network.  To date we have raised over 4k.

Nominees For Diamond Retailer Best Practice Awards 2021

Villainous Grounds
Perryville, MO
Each year Villainous Grounds partners with a local non-profit group to host the Heroes for Kids Comic Con.  Our charitable event brings together real life heroes; First Responders, Military, Law Enforcement, and Fire Fighters with Superheroes (and some Villains!) to raise funds for both local and national charities.   Our one day Con raised more than $8000 in 2021 and also raised awareness of the comic book culture in our community.  We celebrated young local artists, giving them a chance to rub elbows with professional artists, authors, and actors.  This, our second year, nearly doubled attendance of 2019 and we're looking for those numbers to go up next year.  We enjoyed being able to provide a fun, family friendly, safe event for our community.

Zia Comics
Las Cruces, NM
Zia Comics sponsors many events around the local area.  We have helped the local library participate in FCBD, we have had many in store signings for artists, authors, celebrities, we own/operate El Paso Comic Con (approx 20,000+ attendees), we have Free Game Night every Saturday, we work very closely with the city and our neighboring businesses to help bring more people to the Downtown area.

Best In-Store Signage

Challengers Comics + Conversation
Chicago, IL
Challengers' interior signage philosophy is simple: make it easy to read, and less is more.  All or our signs are printed (not hand-written), either in-store by us or at a local photocopy place. We try to keep the branding on point and that includes using our logo often, and lots of red. Signage visible in these photos: We have two 42" monitors that showcase the week's New Releases, as well as a Counter Mat of the week's releases for people to double-check as they get rung up. Each section has a header sign stating what that section contains, and that includes Single-Issue comics on the walls and Graphic Novels on the bookshelves, complete with characters found on those shelves. Flyers for Upcoming Events are posted around the store and are available for people to take at the counter. Highlights from the current Previews are on the back of our register monitor to keep people informed of some new series they can (hopefully) pre-order. There's plenty more you can't see, but hopefully these 4 photos give you an idea of how our interior signage looks.

Comic Quest
Lake Forest, CA
We created signs for each product section, and themed them accordingly. Here are the pictures for the comic sections, Marvel, DC, Image, Comics and Graphic Novels. We made them 3 dimensional so that the lighting could create depth of shadow and more attention. We even modified the standard bathroom symbol to make it more suitable and fun for comic fans.

Nominees For Diamond Retailer Best Practice Awards 2021

Famous Faces and Funnies
West Melbourne, FL
Famous Faces has a unique setup as our location shares retail space with a gaming store. The relationship has been nothing but mutually beneficial as it has allowed both stores to really blossom. Not only do we share customers, but we focus on what we know best. That said, having two separate registers (which means two front counters) can lead to some confusion for customers. To help minimize this, a giant sign was hung above the Famous Faces register to help designate our counter from the gaming shops.   Hanging the sign allows it to become an anchor for Famous Faces. It can be clearly seen from any point in the front room and really draws the eye (and thus, attention) when customers walk back to the front from our backroom. The bold color choice acts as a beacon and adds a really cool pop of color against our concrete walls. The sign was custom-made by the owner of the game store, so we had a chance to add some personality to it. Deathstroke is my favorite comic character of all time, so we chose a color palette inspired by his iconic costume. It's unique and lets customers know a little about us at the same time.   We also utilize easy-to-read (and update both in content and position) signs for displays in-store. Each Pop section, for example, has a clear sign announcing its section; usually, we try to use a familiar font or something fun to catch the eye without cluttering the sign. For instance, Disney's section is written out in the famous Disney signature script and Video Games is written in a classic 80's arcade font. It makes the signs fun without impeding their ability to immediately convey information.   One of my favorite signage ideas comes in the form of our recommendation signs. We have thousands of graphic novels, and that can be a little daunting to pick from. My employee took it upon herself to make primer signs for big characters or teams like Batman, Avengers, and X-Men. She listed seven to eight titles of graphic novels that make great jumping-on points and it's definitely helped hook customers on characters they haven't tried before. To help boost independent graphic novel sales, she put together a set of signs that list a popular media title like X-Files in the "If you like this" column and then listed a few graphic novels (like Letter 44 or Planetary for X-Files) in the adjacent column. It's a quick way to pitch graphic novels to folks who may not even know they're looking for their next great read or don't know what title to dive into. It doesn't require any extra space and the cost was minimal. We can make a situation easy with a simple sign and we've found that simple often works best.

Generation X Comics
Bedford, TX
We have gone through several looks for our signage before settling on this. It is bright, vibrant, and utilizes the store colors. The area is very visible from the front entrance to the store, much better lighted and prominently displayed. The signs for New Comics and Last Week's Comics have dramatically increased sales for new books. The character signs came out great – it seems like everyone has a favorite on the wall. And the department signs (Comics & Graphic Novels and Back Issues) definitely helps out with directing customers to the correct area of the store.   This change has brightened the entire store and we've received many positive comments from customers.

Nominees For Diamond Retailer Best Practice Awards 2021

Nominees For Diamond Retailer Best Practice Awards 2021

Librairie Crossover Comics
Montreal, QC
Our store focuses on keeping signage easy to read, unique, and clean. There is a DIY aspect, with the use of recognizable Scrabble tiles for some sections and other signage that's been blended with posters (like our Enfants / Kids section). Signs point people to sections they might be interested, highlighting the how interests in different books and hobbies is possible in this Crossover of a store!

Best Store Layout

Acme Comics
Greensboro, NC
We are closely approaching our 40th year of operation here at Acme Comics. With that the store has seen many changes. Most recently with social distancing in mind because of the COVID-19 pandemic we have had to rethink and restructure the entire flow of the store, even converting what was once a storage room to more sales floor space. We have made sure everything in the shop is clearly labeled and visible from the moment you walk through our front door. This Week's Comics has a spotlighted center display that flows into 2 Weeks Ago, 3 Weeks Ago, and 4 Weeks Ago, giving customers easy access to a full month worth of comics in one space. The use of modular displays in the main room such as spinner racks and shelving allows us to highlight best sellers and topical products such as our "Disney+" display. From there the store flows into our second room that houses our All-Ages section, back stock, dedicated book shelves for publishers, as well as a well-stocked independent section and manga selection. All of that then leads into the former storage room now "Acme Back-Cave" where we house our vintage and collectible comics. We're extremely proud of what we have been able to accomplish. Thanks for your consideration!

Corn Coast Comics
Huntington, IN
We pride ourselves on being different than most comic shops. As we compete with online sales we had to figure out ways to get people to leave there homes and want to come to our shop. Not just to shop but for an experience that they would not normally get from online shopping. Our Black light display helps us showcase anything glow in the dark or black light reactive as seen in the pictures.

Famous Faces and Funnies
West Melbourne, FL
How do you create a layout for an 11,000 square foot store filled with comics, toys, graphic novels, Pops, and more? You try to lay it out in a way that mimics the store you'd want to visit. Famous Faces' staff has always said the goal with the store is to create the comic book shop that they'd want to shop at, and the store layout reflects that. It's organized, easy to navigate, and follows the flow of the store. We try our hardest to keep similar items near one another and to keep our racking systems consistent so customers can find what they need with ease.   Upon entering the store, you're greeted with a shelf of our best selling graphic novels that rotates out each quarter. Not only is this a great "welcome" display because it shows our top sellers, it also shows the diversity in product we stock since our Top 50 is made up of manga, classic favorites, new hits like Die, and blockbuster adaptations. Having that diverse selection right near the door lets customers know that no matter what their interests are, we'll have something for them. Following that display, is the first half of our "recent releases' sorted by publisher in alphabetical order. Here customers can find the most recent issue about six months back in issues, right up front and easy to shop from without having to look in overstock or back issues. Our register and front counter split this wall into two, with the alphabet picking up on the other side.   From there, our graphic novels are shelved. Along the same wall as our recent releases are thousands of Marvel graphic novels, along the next wall are DC and Vertigo titles, with lower shelves of other independent titles, media tie-ins, and more stocked on the floor space between the wall making a plot of thousands of books. Along the wall opposite our Marvel shelf, customers can find new releases. New books are changed out weekly and are always in the same place for easy shopping. Located right next to the new comics are new graphic novels, books, and toys. Keeping this area consistent, but filled with new products allows us to showcase new items each week without any confusion. Keeping things cycled and flowing through the store is key.    Once customers are done in the front, our backroom is available. The back houses hundreds of boxes of back issues and overstock, all alphabetized regularly and priced for customers ease. Toys and Pops all find their home back here, with shelves for each type of Pop be it "Movies' or "Disney" with similar merchandise filling in space and smaller shelves. Like Harry Potter? Great! It's all in one spot for you!   Organization and flow are key with a store this big that houses thousands of products. Once we found the layout that worked, it just became about maintaining it. Customers appreciate the ease of finding products, and we know everything has a place.

Zia Comics
Las Cruces, NM
Zia Comics is nearly 8,000 square feet of Geeky Goodness.  There is everything from ice cream to board games.  There is even a dedicated gaming area away from the retail floor.  shelving units located away from the walls are lower to allow for better sight lines throughout the store.  There is even an arcade located in a separate room at the back of the store.  Everything is situated to allow for more than adequate room between displays so no one feels claustrophobic.  With so much space to explore, we made a map for customers to use when they enter the front door.

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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.
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