Rumor Alert: Borders to Quit Selling Stapled Comics?

Passed to me from a source who seems to know what they’re talking about, but unqualifiable by me:

Borders is currently running a feasibility study to determine how much impact withdrawing monthly comics from all Waldenbooks and Superstores will have on Borders’ bottom line sales. Right now it’s not looking good, because [a store] would not [be allowed to] increase ordering, and if [the] current stock of monthly comics [ran out], [they should] market graphic novels in their place on the spinner rack.

The source goes on to wonder what kind of impact that change might have on the comics industry, considering the number of Borders and Waldens stores out there, all of which carry monthly comics.

It’s a good question, but not one I feel comfortable predicting. I see the comic racks at my local Borders, but I never see anyone browsing or buying them. Would dropping that returnable source really hurt DC and Marvel?

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18 Responses to “Rumor Alert: Borders to Quit Selling Stapled Comics?”

  1. Dorian Says:

    I occasionally see little kids at the comics rack in the nearest Borders to me. Never teens or adults (well, Pete, when he gets tired of waiting for me to get done looking through the magazine section), though the shelves always look pawed over and the comics heavily damaged and bent out of shape. It looks to me like the comics are getting read but not bought. Which is pretty much what I expected to happen when Borders started putting monthly comics into their shops.

  2. Johanna Says:

    Do you happen to remember how long ago that was?

  3. Jim Kosmicki Says:

    our local Waldenbooks has been the one consistent source for stapled comics as all the other newstands have dried up — but I never see anyone buying comics there. and quite frankly, there’s not much left that’s sent out to the newstands. When I was younger there were dozens of places that sold comics in my hometown. now there are three counting the Waldenbooks, and the other two are specialty stores.

  4. Blog@Newsarama » Rumor mill: Borders may stop selling monthlies Says:

    [...] On her blog, Johanna Draper Carlson passes along a rumor that Borders is considering dropping single-issue comics. BordersShe quotes her source as saying the Borders Group is conducting a feasability study to determine what impact removing monthly comics from its 1,200 stores would have on the company’s bottom line. [...]

  5. Journalista » Blog Archive » Sept. 1, 2006: Free money Says:

    [...] In the “totally unconfirmed rumors” department, Johanna Draper Carlson gets word that Borders is mulling to possibility of dropping pamphlet comics from its stores. [...]

  6. Jer Says:

    As I recall, Borders has only been carrying monthly comics for a few years. Waldenbooks has carried them for as long as I remember. So Waldenbooks losing them might be more painful to Marvel/DC than Borders, but I don’t know.

    Dorian’s right – people don’t seem to actually BUY the comics at my local Borders. The only ones that seem to disappear at my local stores before the next issue comes out are the ones that sell out at the local comic book stores and don’t get re-ordered before someone goes to Borders to get it. So stuff like the Spider-man unmasking issue disappeared pretty quick, but other stuff just sits there until the next issue comes out (yes, I do spend an inordinate amount of time in the local Borders “studying”, thank you for noticing).

    The impact for me of Borders getting rid of their monthly comics is that it will end up cutting down on the number of monthly comics that I actually read – I’ll be back down to the small number that I actually purchase and the ones that I borrow from friends. I’d been using Borders to supplement my purchases with a dose of “I’ll read this there and see if its any good”. I suppose that neither Marvel nor DC will be pleased to know that I’ve added exactly zero books to my monthly purchases based on my reading them at Borders, but John Byrne will probably accuse me of theft.

  7. Dorian Says:

    That they started putting the monthly comics in? Seems like it’s been about two years, give or take a couple of months. I remember some angsting going on in retailer circles when they did, because the rumor was that it was the first part of an attempt by Borders to launch a chain of comic shops.

  8. Johanna Says:

    Oh, right, I remember that — guess that’s not likely now.

    Jer, heh, sorry it will inconvenience you that way. :) I never really thought “letting people use us as a library” was a great business model … do they really sell THAT much coffee?

  9. Lisa Lopacinski Says:

    “I never really thought “letting people use us as a library” was a great business model … do they really sell THAT much coffee?” I’ve often wondered THAT myself. I know I’ve seen people spend hours reading books for free and then leave. One day this summer I went into a Borders and saw a group of kids with stacks of Manga they were reading for free.

    Truthfully, I hope their eliminating of the comics, if it happens, helps the local comic book retailers. I also figure that DC and Marvel will just make a bigger push for their subscriptions to fill in any gap this action might cause.

  10. Captain Spaulding Says:

    The only ones that seem to disappear at my local stores before the next issue comes out are the ones that sell out at the local comic book stores and don’t get re-ordered before someone goes to Borders to get it. So stuff like the Spider-man unmasking issue disappeared pretty quick

    If my experience at working at a chain book store during the speculator boom of the early 90′s is any indication, those might have been purchased by employees of the Borders before they even hit the shelf.

  11. Jer Says:

    Captain Spaulding,

    Not in this case – they had them on the racks one day (which gave me a chance to read through the issue and see what was up). The next time I went in, they were all gone. They only had a couple to start with anyway (which is standard for at least the Borders here), so I figured some store didn’t order enough and someone was afraid of getting a “second printing” or something. The Borders here is pretty spotty about its issues anyway – I wouldn’t be able to count on them for monthly purchases of anything but maybe Spider-man and Batman books – everything else shows up kind of randomly. (This may be part of the reason why they’re comics sales may not be doing so hot).

    Johanna -
    The bookstore-as-library model sometimes works out okay – there are books that I’ve bought there that I wouldn’t have picked up otherwise. Nowadays, though, I’m back in school, which means my books tend to come from the actual library.

    And the Borders around here have farmed their coffee shops out to Seattle’s Best Coffee Shops – which I would guess means that they get less on the coffee purchases now than they used to. Sometimes I really wonder exactly WHAT business model Borders follows.

  12. Augie De Blieck Jr. Says:

    I’m surprised there are any Waldenbooks left. In light of the mega-store chains like Borders and Barnes and Noble, Waldenbooks seems weak and feeble. (Yes, I know Borders owns Waldenbooks now, or has some sort of relationship to it.)

    In fact, I was just at the mall today — Willowbrook Mall, Wayne, NJ — where the Waldenbooks that was there for a decade or two just closed up shop. There’s one other one in another decrepit mall around the corner. I’ll have to see if they’re still going. They have less competition in their neck of the woods, but it’s still almost not worth stopping there for anything other than the latest NY Times Top Ten title or a magazine.

    Waldenbooks is to books right now as Sam Goodys was to CDs a year ago. . .

    Losing Borders would be huge, though.

  13. Nat Gertler Says:

    Well, the Waldenbooks near me has been renamed Borders Express.

    And to answer the question here: I buy comics at both the local Borders Express and the local Borders (which is only two blocks further away). Handy places when you’re walking the stroller and want a comic book fix, and the nearest comic book shops are a half-hour drive away. Plus they carry some things the comic shops don’t – Nick Mag Presents, for example.

    Here’s something to think on, though: if they were to convert the spin rack (at Borders Express) or the standard rack (at Borders) to graphic novels, it is likely that certain publishers will lose space to others, as the periodical racks are limited to the publishers who put periodicals into the newsstand system… basically Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Bongo, Archie (maybe some Image, I don’t recall).

  14. James Schee Says:

    The only Borders store I’ve ever been in, a newly built one just outside of Houston has never carried monthly comics anyway.

    I would think it’d be easier to manage GNs, the pamphlets at Books A Million seem rather randomly selected anyway each month making it hard to keep up with anything anyway. Normally the people I see browing them, seem to be the same ones from the local comic shops anyway.

  15. Jim Kosmicki Says:

    Our rather small midwestern community of about 40,000 has been able to support a Waldenbooks for going on 30-35 years now — we’d never be able to support a Borders. If they want to call it Borders Express, that’s cool by me, but there is a place in the world for smaller bookstores. in fact, as I recall, Barnes & Noble really resisted putting a store into Lincoln about 10 years ago, our state capital, second largest city and home of a large university because they weren’t sure it could support itself. (there are now 2 very popular B&N, but we were seen as too small of a market to bother with for a long time).

  16. ChuckSatterlee Says:

    The buyer of graphic novels at Bprders/Waldenbooks is not pro-graphic novels, believe it or not. It is very hard to get even graphic novels sold at that chain. The buyer is very pro-manga. He does not believe that the average borders customer is interested in OGN’s. The buyer at Books A Million feels much the same way. It is a hard sell for OGN’s, so it comes as no surprise to me that they are doing this study.

  17. Nes Says:

    I work at a Waldenbooks that *definitely* still sells single issues. Now I don’t claim to know anything about what they’re doing up at corporate and maybe it has something to do with the fact that 2/3 of our staff reads comics, but graphic novels is something like the #2 selling genre at our store. I have to admit that the issues don’t sell as well as we’d like and mostly we get a bunch of people who use that rack like their private library but we sell a few everyday…we’d probably sell more if the staff didn’t lavish the local comic shop with our love and attention. Anyway, this possibility disturbs me greatly.

  18. Lyle Says:

    I was thinking about this rumor the other day when I hit the Union Square Borders. One thing that struck me was that this store would have plenty of periodical comics if they did get rid of the staple-bound comics — between the Archie digests and magazines like MadKids, Nickelodeon, Disney Adventures and Shonen Jump, 2/3 of the magazine rack labled “Kids Magazines” were titles that featured a large portion of comic content. I didn’t realiz there were so many magazines that featured comics until I saw them taking up so much space.

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