When DC Comics kicked off the New 52 in 2011, it was accompanied by new trading practices, negotiated by then-DC Comics VP Sales and former retailer Bob Wayne, with Diamond Comic Distributors and others. Diamond Comic Distributors would delivery comic books on Tuesdays or before, for sale on Wednesday. Stores court breaking that street date would lose that early delivery privilege. And stores would pay into a fund of mystery shoppers to ensure those street dates were adhered to. When people first started checking, 2% stores broke street date. That number dropped to almost nothing. Now, it's back up.
This year, DC Comics dropped Diamond Comic Distributors when they went into shut down. DC instead set up two new distributors, from their two biggest retail accounts, Midtown/UCS and DCBS/Lunar. They also moved their on-sale date to Tuesdays. And many retailers started getting those comic books the previous week. When Diamond returned, the fee for the mystery shoppers was dropped and the service went away.
With these temptations coming to bear, Bleeding Cool has received multiple reports of many comic book stores selling to favoured customers early, or even just putting them on open sale, as early as the Thursday before the Tuesday they are meant to go on sale.
Back in the days of multiple distributors, this was common, one comic book getting the jump on their rivals by using a faster, different, distributor. It may have costed more to ship comics air freight, but you could sell them sooner, undercutting rivals by time if not price. Millions and millions of dollars were spent by comic book stores trying to get that week's comics on the shelves a day before their rivals, to clean up.
This week, Bleeding Cool broke the news about Lunar and DC imposing stricter guidelines on minimum orders from stores and an attempt to get rid of eBay stores ordering direct from Lunar, in favour of both physical and online stores. Rules that were, as one source pointed out, pretty much cut and pasted from Diamond UK's own rules regarding comic book stores. Will they be just as harsh regarding stores breaking street dates?