Must-Read on Comic Retailing Today
In announcing he’s closing his second store, comic retailer Brian Hibbs makes a lot of cogent observations about the state of the direct market for comic books today in his latest Tilting at Windmills column. Some key points:
I’ve lost a great deal of faith in the business of periodical comics and, more specifically, of many of the people in charge of shepherding it. Costs of operation are greatly increasing, profit margins are getting tighter, and the industry as a whole seems hell-bent on catering to speculators and Fear-Of-Missing-Out (FOMO) marketing….
The periodical portion of the business has clearly been shifting strongly over the last few years to lean more heavily on the “collector” side of the market…. There is at least one publisher who publishes at least ten covers on nearly every single periodical they release.
[T]here used to be an advantage of having a second store because as your volume rises, your discount used to rise, but that’s just not the case in a de-consolidated market…. All having a second store now does is increase costs, with no tangible benefits.
And that’s the key point. Retailers now have to use multiple distributors. Some might argue that choice is a good thing, but when you’re paying more in shipping on very tight budgets because you no longer make minimums or conditions have changed, that’s disruptive.
Hibbs has long been an advocate for creating habitual customers of periodicals, but that market doesn’t seem to be very viable any more, as he’s concluding. Book-format comics are all I read any more — between not wanting to keep up with “what’s out this week” and not caring about superheroes or horror, periodicals don’t make sense for me. Graphic novels are easier to buy, read, store, and talk about (as they don’t age out in a week).
You’ll want to read all of Hibbs’ column if you’re at all interested in how the coming distributor changes are going to affect this hobby. There’s a very real question as to how well, or whether, Diamond will survive in its current form once it loses DC and there’s a Marvel alternative. Which would be a difficult thing for the other periodical-based publishers to survive.