Stock Options

There are two primary issues that any store has to deal with when addressing inventory:
1) Cost
2) Availability

Let’s go in reverse order and then talk about how in reality the two are deeply entwined. There have been several online discussions/columns/investigations over the past month about issues of availability. Most recently Chris Butcher let us all know what it is exactly that’s preventing Top Shelf and the retailing community from selling a copy of From Hell to everyone without a copy as well as those who need to replace a copy that’s falling apart. Meanwhile Brian Hibbs played Cassiopeia not once but twice, pointing out what we’ve all pretty much known: Diamond is not only a de facto monopoly, it’s one that seems to operate on a conservative if not completely shortsighted business plan.

Toss in the near fisticuffs between Dirk Deppey and Tom Spurgeon, basically a critic speak version of bookstore vs. direct market (mainstream vs. ghetto), and we’ve seen quite a bit of discussion of distribution on an industry-wide scale. What this means for our 1200 square feet breaks down to what do we want to carry and who can we get it from (what are they going to charge us for it comes later). The niche we’re carving out is to serve the “standard” direct market customer looking for Teen Titans, X-Men and maybe an Usagi as well as the bookstore customer who enjoyed Persepolis but is not sure where to go next (or somehow just can’t find Persepolis 2 at Barnes & Noble or Borders). What becomes an issue is, to steal Hibbs’ example, how are we going to carry Understanding Comics? Diamond doesn’t carry it, won’t know when they can fill a backorder for it (Brian is dead on about the insanity of that particular inventory strategy). Generally option number two is Cold Cut, only they don’t have any in stock either. Even if both companies had it in stock, neither is going to give us better than 45% margin (more on that later).

So, two of the best-selling products our industry has to offer Understanding Comics, currently in the top 1500 of ALL books on, and From Hell, currently out of print because the only digital version of the book apparently resides on’s Search Inside feature, are unavailable to the majority of direct market stores. Is distribution broken? Yeah, pretty much. Time to put in the extra leg work to get past that little hurdle.

Up Next: 40% margin? Seriously?


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