Dark Horse Promotes Out-of-Stock Product

Christopher Butcher has the rundown. In short, Dark Horse is using ad space in its very successful Buffy comic to promote related books that are out of print for at least another month.

…the real root of the problem is inventory management and cashflow. Dark Horse’s backlist has become far, far too big for them to keep in print, and in order to maximise the return on their investment they’re needing to find cheaper, slower printing solutions. If massive outages of Sin City, Hellboy, 300, and now the Joss Whedon backlist haven’t shown them that this solution is if not entirely untenable than at least massively unprofessional, I don’t know what will.

Successful inventory management is difficult, and some might say that retailers should buy more to start. Many have switched to just-in-time stocking, keeping only one or two copies on the shelf and reordering frequently as necessary. With so many bookshelf choices, that’s a sensible strategy to avoid tying up space. Let the publisher and/or the distributor handle the warehousing.

But many of Dark Horse’s problems result from poor planning. Take, for another example, the Umbrella Academy. The Free Comic Book Day issue did exactly what it was supposed to: it got new readers into stores. They were attracted by the series being written by the singer of My Chemical Romance, and word apparently got out through those communities.

However, the first issue of the series isn’t due until September! (Although it will be solicited with the August releases, another of Dark Horse’s favorite strategies that annoy me.) Will those new shoppers remember to come back? Will they still be interested? Will they wind up asking “why are comics so screwed up?” At least they are dedicated — one woman was so happy we had the issue that she kept offering to pay for it even though it was a free comic. I just hope that dedication lasts.


5 Responses to “Dark Horse Promotes Out-of-Stock Product”

  1. Ray Cornwall Says:

    So after all the conversations last week…which books worked best in the store on FCBD?

  2. Justin Says:

    I am planning on preordering it, but I have been doing so for about a year already. Had it been my first few months I might have passed it by entirely. It works out well for folks buying in advance. It was the favorite of my haul, and I remember wondering if it had already been solicited. And then there it was.

    If I were still going to the shop, there likely would have been no way. It is a tough balance, though for once I think waiting worked out only for those who preorder. Even I wouldn’t say that is a good choice, no matter how much it benefitted my buying habit.

  3. Johanna Says:

    Ray: Peanuts (several older collectors came in just for that), Spider-Man (as expected, given the timing), Archie and Mickey Mouse (because of the diversity of people you can give them to). A few people asked specifically for Buzzboy, which surprised me but should please John. People asked for Battlestar Galactica, too, when they saw that. Love and Capes (“romantic comedy about a superhero”) and Whiteout (“murder mystery in Antarctica”) were very easy to push when people asked “what do you recommend?”

    Justin, good point about the sampler allowing people to preorder IF they’re comfortable doing that.

  4. Adult Male-Targeted Manga Doesn’t Sell? » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] not to muddy the issue, but I’m never surprised to hear of any problems involving Dark Horse publications. In this case, they’re not a dedicated manga publisher, so they don’t have the loyalty […]

  5. Licensed Comic Announcements » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] with big-name properties to do this right, but history doesn’t bear it out, given their out-of-stock problems in the past. […]

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