Quick Hits 4/1

*It's been covered about as extensively as something on a private forum can be, but if you missed it, our colleague, RIOT's Jason Richards, had a falling out with several other retailers at the CBIA forum. The conflict itself was sparked by a misunderstanding but was really based on a clash of personalities (and not just a little based on concepts of what a comic shop should be). As with any message board, there's a tendency for several voices to emerge loudest and in this case a few of those voices happened to chime in at the same time saying essentially the same thing. I'm sure it felt more than a bit like being ganged up on, particularly when both sides seemed to be misinterpreting what the other was getting at. Johanna Draper Carlson had a ringside seat and pretty much nails it (as usual). The subtext below the surface of many CBIA conversations and this one in particular, is that we're dealing with an industry without any real standards with which to compete. There's no nationwide or even regional chains (Lone Star Comics is probably the closest to this) to compare a store with and it's often lamented by customers that there aren't enough good comic shops out there (or enough out there period). When you couple that lack of standardization with the relatively singleminded passion it takes to be successful as a comics retailer, you find that there's an incredibly broad spectrum of store owners who have incredibly varied opinions on just how things should be done, a perfect recipe for conflict. Anyway, I don't blame Jason for not feeling inclined to post at the CBIA anymore, but it can be a useful tool, particularly for the retail community to interact with publisher representatives.

*In semi-related news, James Sime, proprietor of the world famous Isotope, has returned to his Comic Pimp column at CBR with a concept that I'm a huge fan of: pointing out some of the more innovative, forward thinking retailers to come into the business recently. As I'm sure those of you who follow the blog have guessed by now, I think that there's huge potential for growing the Direct Market, but that the key to such growth is in pursuing new and lapsed readers through the creation of retail environments that will both attract their attention and then provide better service and selection than any similar outlet. I can't wait to hear from more retailers who have brought their own approach to the industry (and hopefully I'll even be able to swipe a few ideas for MacGuffin).

*I really shouldn't underestimate the selling power of a sellout announced before the title hits shelves. Last week it was Batman #651, this week it was Fantastic Four #536. Nothing brings out a speculator like an announced sellout. Wednesday I had several customers come in looking for multiple copies (taking a cue from my Marvel Zombies experiences, I've taken steps to limit first day sellouts of "hot" titles to customers purchasing multiple copies of those titles) and still sold out of the title before the close of business. The whole Doom's hand and Thor's hammer thing certainly drove sales up from what we were selling on Fantastic Four (which was none at all), but Marvel announcing the day before it hits shelves that they are sold out and not planning to reprint simply encourages this sort of behavior.

Not that I'm blameless here. I knew there would be a higher demand on this title (as a result of the cover and warnings from Marvel about its importance to Civil War) and had increased my order significantly from what we usually get of Fantastic Four. This is where my newfound ability to utilize actually sales data in the ordering process came back to bite me. Marvel allows retailers to change their order numbers up until 3 weeks before release and when it came time to adjust our order on this particular issue I saw 0 sales of Fantastic Four compared with a ridiculously high order number (for a normal issue). I then proceeded to slash order down to just barely more than the average issue of Fantastic Four, thereby kneecapping myself. Just love it when actually using data instead of gut instinct comes back to bite me.


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