[ Message Board · Trouble with Comics · Reviews · Essays · Interviews · Audio Interviews · Facebook · writeblog · A Criminal Blog · Kochalkaholic · FAQ · E-Mail ]

Sunday, January 20, 2008

 
The Upper Echelon of Comic Book Retailers -- In the ongoing discussion with comic book retailers about convention sales happening at Comics Worth Reading (scroll down to the comments following Johanna's initial post), noted comics retailer Rory Root said today:
"I’d be quite pleased if folk would stop judging the upper echelon of comic stores by the bottom feeders. It’s as if the gourmet restaurants in the market were judged by how the greasy spoons operated."
I think this is one of the key issues facing comic book retailers and the direct market today, and here is how I responded to Rory's plea:
It’s up to the progressive stores to separate themselves from the majority superhero convenience stores and their anti-comics policies, Rory. One major step would be to create a list of best practices that all professional businesses should adhere to. Has ComicsPRO issued a paper like this for its members?

Here are some of the practices I personally endorse:

Professional comic book stores are clean.

Professional comic book stores are well-lit.

Professional comic book stores are well-organized.

Professional comic book stores are open on time, all the time.

Professional comic book stores have prices clearly marked and up to date on all merchandise.

Professional comic book stores operate their business in accordance with local, state and federal laws, including labor and employment laws.

Professional comic book stores do not favor one genre or sub-genre over another.

Professional comic book stores recognize that all comics are comics, no matter what country they originate from, or what format they are published in.

Professional comic book stores actively welcome all people interested in buying some kind of comics to shop at their store,

Professional comic book stores recognize the transition from periodical pamphlet comics to more appealing and enduring graphic novels, and accommodate the readership’s clear preference for comics with a spine and a complete story.

Professional comic book stores actively seek to buy from a variety of distributors, not relying on one monopolistic distributor for the entirety of their business, and not settling for receiving books “whenever Diamond ships them,” but rather, as soon as they are available, in order to better serve their customers.

Now, if ComicsPRO as an organization insists its members adhere to standards that meet or exceed these, then I’d agree you and your colleagues are all working for positive change within the direct market. If not, then you continue to allow the bottom feeders to thrive and use quality retailers such as yourself as cover for their shoddy, amateur practices.

Please let me know where online I may find ComicsPRO’s position paper on this issue. If it doesn’t exist yet, please keep us posted on its progress. Because until then, a lack of professionalism in the majority of the direct market’s stores, and impotent declarations like the convention sales position paper, will only work to cripple ComicsPRO and its attempt to build a reputation for its members as professional retailers worth supporting.
I'll have much more on this story, hopefully within the next 24 hours or so. But I thought this exchange was important enough to call it out on its own for further discussion and consideration.

Labels: ,


7 Comments:

Blogger musecomics said...

This comment is from me as a retailer, not as a board member of ComicsPRO.

I hate to respond to something like this because I don't really believe that you think calling someone out to prove to you how professional they are is a good use of any retailer's time.

A position paper which helps to improve the retailing environment for ComicsPRO members, such as asking publishers not to pre-sell our unreturnable orders, is valuable.

A position paper to prove to you (for they are already proving it to their own actual customers) that ComicsPRO members care about running good, professional stores is not valuable. Even your opinions of what makes a professional store shows a lack of knowledge of retail. (That isn't mean to insult you. Customers do not generally understand what all it takes for a retailer to be able to get a book onto the shelf, nor should they.)

I realize that posting back to this feeds into the insult-trading. My hope is that you can read into my comment that I don't want to put you down, but if you want your passion for comics and the comic industry to mean something, to accomplish something and to be useful to the conversation at large, you would educate yourself more about the mechanisms of retail OR give the benefit of the doubt to the business people who have worked for decades to keep this industry growing. Don't put the responsibility on the people working 50-70 hours a week to teach you why your assumptions about retail don't hold up by insulting them and asking them to disprove you. Especially the retailers you are aiming this missive toward.

(You don't have to post this publically, either. I would just rather redirect your energy to something positive and useful.)

20 January, 2008 10:52  
Blogger Alan David Doane said...

My list of what I expect from a professional comic book retailer is just that, my list of what I expect from a professional comic book retailer. In buying from retailers since the mid-1970s, I have encountered every kind of comic book retailer, from the very best (The Beguiling in Toronto) to the very worst (too many dirty, amateur shitholes to even begin to name, although I will if asked).

As such, my ongoing commentary on the issue of professional comic book retailing is based on my experiences as a customer with over 30 years of experience buying comic books from retailers. I don't claim to know the ins and outs of retailing from the point of view of the retailer, but as a customer I know what I want, and I know what I haven't gotten in some of the worst shops I have shopped at.

In my experience, the bad comic shops outnumber the good ones by a large margin. As comics continue to make new inroads to new venues, it behooves those who call themselves professional comic book retailers to be professional, or risk being plowed under by the ever-growing wave of other, better alternatives to buy comics, from online dealers to mainstream bookstores and other potential future outlets.

ComicsPRO's position paper is of value to no one, except the least progressive members of the organization itself, who will find false comfort in knowing that they belong to a club willing to bleat their unreasonable demand that publishers drop a valuable source of marketing and revenue, without ever suggesting even one positive alternative that would allow both the retailer and the publisher to benefit.

For all the world, ComicsPRO's position seems to be like a lazy husband sitting in his EZ chair watching football while demanding his wife wash the dishes. When she asks what's in it for her, ComicsPRO, I mean the husband, replies, "Why, I'll keep on sitting here watching TV, of course."

In order for ComicsPRO's papers to be valuable to anyone, they have to result in a positive change within the industry. You're asking for a negative change -- publishers screwing themselves out of promotion and income -- without offering anything at all in return.

So, I appreciate your comments, but if you think this position paper is going to result in any change at all, I sincerely wish you good luck. You're going to need it.

20 January, 2008 11:48  
Blogger musecomics said...

I answered most of these assumptions in the thread at Johanna's site if you are interested in more than your own opinions about retailing.

The situation is: retailers pre-order product, publishers sell the same exact product to consumers before retailers can get the shipments, retailers have to pay for the products anyway and are left with unsold, unreturnable copies. Making the publishers out to be abused and neglected victims is absurd.

I appreciate the wish for good luck! Making positive changes in the industry is going to take good people working hard against a lot of complaining and "status quo" unfair practices. We're going to need luck!

20 January, 2008 14:41  
Blogger Alan David Doane said...

"The situation is: retailers pre-order product, publishers sell the same exact product to consumers before retailers can get the shipments..."

That's not true; what's true is that most retailers choose not to get the same exact product using the same exact method as the publishers, i.e., same- or next-day shipping to get them into their hands as quickly as possible. If you want the same option the publishers are using, then you should work with them to have the books at the same time. Most publishers I have asked so far indicate they would be more than willing to make the books available to retailers at the same time they are available to the publishers for their convention sales; it's up to you and your fellow publishers whether you choose to do so or not.

"Making the publishers out to be abused and neglected victims is absurd."

It certainly would be, if not for the incontrovertible fact that non-superhero publishers ARE abused and neglected by Diamond and the majority of the superhero convenience stores that make up its customer base.

If you don't think that's true, ask the publishers we're talking about here. I already have, and I know their answers. Diamond and its policies are anti-comics and in point of fact, the disgrace of the comics industry. The direct market's continuing refusal to face up to that and demand alternative distribution methods speaks volumes about the direct market's true willingness to effect positive change that is good for comics.

20 January, 2008 15:19  
Blogger rorydroot said...

Wow!

Let's take a few items in order shall we?

1-6 on your list remind me of a sign I saw in a high end restarant's restroom one day. "Our employee's are of such a high caliber they do not need to be reminded to wash their hands"

Others on your list are matters of opinion, not that theres anything wrong with that. If store "A" wants to be a Manga store and store "B" wants to be an Art Comics store. or store "C" wants to be a superhero shop, they're all allowed and the market will sort it out. Some like CR are generalists and we will carry it all.

The rest of the list is in many cases common sense, or just good business practices, nothing new here.

Should/could more stores benefit, sure, but it is their business to run.

Now when it comes to early release at shows. As you may know CR has a major presence at three west coast shows, APE, WonderCon and SDCC. At these shows new books are often airfreighted from printers to be on sale at the publishers tables. Many publishers will let us buy into that shipment(s). Some will not, or will allow us to help sell the lesser items of such a release. So saying that is merely a matter of making arrangements is mistaken. Not all such accommodations are allowed.

20 January, 2008 15:46  
Blogger Alan David Doane said...

"As you may know CR has a major presence at three west coast shows, APE, WonderCon and SDCC. At these shows new books are often airfreighted from printers to be on sale at the publishers tables. Many publishers will let us buy into that shipment(s). Some will not, or will allow us to help sell the lesser items of such a release. So saying that is merely a matter of making arrangements is mistaken. Not all such accommodations are allowed."

Then I would say that you should choose to favour the publishers that are willing to work with you, just as publishers are more willing to work with retailers that demonstrate flexibility in their policies. Just as inflexible comic book stores are destined to fail, so are inflexible publishers.

20 January, 2008 16:59  
Blogger Modern said...

Hi, ADD-

I think we're running into a problematic but unavoidable 'defining success' problem.

I don't disagree with most of your criteria, though I'm with Brian in not feeling the need to demand that ALL shops selling comics be 'generalists'... there are plenty of great classical CD stores and Mystery Book stores and whatnot. That said, I also see your point, which is that rather than conscious 'superhero specialists', many, many DM shops behave like franchisees of Marvel and DC rather than businesses actively seeking markets.

Part of the difficulty of trying to nail this stuff down is that every shop owner defines 'success' in a different way. I've been a Retail Board member of GAMA, the hobby game industry's trade organization, for, jeez, like 8 years now. Every couple of years the issue of 'standards' is raised and we kick it around for a while and always come to the conclusion that the marketplace is diverse enough and the individual criteria for success so varied, that drawing up 'standards' for our members (via a position paper of otherwise) is a minefiled none of us really wants to enter, because it turns subjective very, very quickly.

I guess my question for YOU is: even if we did issue a paper, even if it was just a suggested 'best practices' list, what's the upside beyond peer pressure? Or is that all you're looking for? I don't think it does us any good at all to EXCLUDE anyone on the basis of failing to meet our standards, especially when some of those shops you really like may not meet one or two of them (I occasionally work alone in my store and have to eat behind the counter, for instance, a TERRIBLE practice that I wish I could stop but don't have the staffing level to always manage...).

I understand why you're asking, but I really think that the Position Paper process is not the way to achive it on our end; if anything will move the industry towards some best practices, it's the trade show/meetings (where retailers can talk and actively exchange best practices and show comcrete results to each other) and, especially, the Mentor Program we've set up to pair new stores with veteran retailers to help them start off on the right foot (and survive their early missteps). I think that's about the extent that our voluntary, non-binding porfessional 'club' can have on the stores that aren't (and likely won't ever be) members.

I also ought to reiterate that there ARE a certain amount of important anti-trust/competition issues that preclude us from trying to make the market look the way we want in too aggressive a manner.

In the meantime, my opinion is that a well-moderated forum or web site that published a list of crtieria like this and then asked folks to reasonably objectively run down the list at thier local shops might help build a grass-roots version of what you're asking for. Get the word out to like-minded fans elsewhere, and start building a list of Comic Stores Worth Patronizing, or some similar.

I can tell you from long and frustrating experience that one of the problems such projects encouter is that for every fan as passionate and involved in the health of the industry as you or Johanna (or Brian or Rory) there is another guy whose sole criteria is the 25% off the basement shithole gives him.

20 January, 2008 22:35  

Post a Comment

<< Home

---

---

---

FEATURED RESOURCES

Banks are regarded the best option for making a safe investments as well as having world wide accepted creditcard. People are not only facilitated by loans but also provided debt management consolidation by the leading banks. Students can also get loans as well as apply for student loan consolidation. At the same time high flying insurance companies also contribute to the any one’s life through offering different plans of life, health and dental insurance. Along insurance of life one can also enhance its home security through installing latest home security systems.


This page is powered by ADD.