Wednesday, April 30, 2008

In the Black.

Yesterday, I paid off every little bill, wrote off the bigger quarterly checks for payroll taxes, and took out my calculator. Turned out that I was still in the black. Not only that, but I had enough left in my backup account to pay off three times more than I borrowed last month.

This kind of thing usually only happens twice a year; end of summer, and end of Christmas. And here I was firmly in positive cash flow on a down month, 2/3rds of the way through the slow season. I've paid off one credit card in full, and I'm one third paid off on the other credit card, with every intention of have a zero balance by the end of June.

Very satisfying.

One thing I've learned about myself in this downturn. I don't take the slightest bit of satisfaction in the fact that what I predicted is happening. I'm still kind of anxious and concerned, even though my personal situation is pretty good. I've found out that I much prefer when everyone is doing well, not just me. Good to know, at least to myself, that I'm not too much of a crow.

I'm halfway through my budgetary process. If you remember, I had decided to take two week off reordering, then reorder for two weeks, then take two weeks off, and so on, alternating every two weeks for the period of March, April, May and June.

The positives of this regime are beginning to compound. I saw twice the benefit this month as last, and expect to see the benefits of my restraint even more next month and so on.

Right into summer, where I will resume my previous every week reordering scheme, but at a strict budget. (No exceptions.)

All I seem to be missing is some of the 'marginal' product that no one is exactly demanding, like stand-ups and jokey toys. And I think I'll be able to squeeze those in by the beginning of the tourist season.


It was nice to have an article about Free Comic Book Day. I wrote that sentiment in an entry last Sunday, and then followed it with a little bit of....."Yes, but....." I decided to save the second half of that entry until later, because it seems a little negative and I didn't want to seem unappreciative or anything. (By the way, it's coming up this Saturday. I'm hoping to allow every visitor with 3 to 4 comics each.)

But my post is still valid, so I've decided to tack it on to the end of today's entry:

To wit:

Every little bit helps.

If it sounds like faint praise, well, it kind of is. I'm happy for the publicity and I'm happy whenever there is an event that brings people in the door. But I try not to get too excited.

I know you're thinking, "Confound the man! Does nothing satisfy him!" (The answer is no, but that's not my point.)

I've just learned not to make too much of these events.

There are a whole series of Spring Happenings. The Iron Man movie opens, followed by a series of moves that are obviously comic oriented (Hulk, Hellboy), as well as movies that would appear to be comic related (Hancock) and others that actually are, but no one will realize (Wanted); there is the next quarterly wave of Magic arriving; and, of course, FCBD.

One of the weirdest things is how little effect movies have on my business. But, except for the actual product that ties in, (we sold a ton of Sin City books, 300, V for Vendetta) it doesn't seem to move the meter much. Super hero movies have even less effect-- except that I do have a couple of major customers who came back to the hobby because of them. But, overall, it's not what you'd think.

Again, every little bit helps.

I actually expect to sell a whole bunch of the Watchmen graphic novel (often considered the best graphic novel ever done) between now and the movie opening next year. It's going to be a real, big budget movie -- and going to surprise people. It might move the meter toward acceptance of comics as a real art form.

Iron man? Not so much.

Here's the problem. I have the current Iron Man and stories from the last five to ten years, in graphic novels, but the original conception (which is what the movie is based on) was done in 1963; so we're looking at extremely expensive, extremely rare originals; or very expensive color reprints (about 50.00 each) or cheaper black and white reprints.

Theres also this weird Catch-22 when it comes to kids comics. Comics actually designed for kids (really designed for parents) don't interest the kids because they can just tell it's designed for them. But the regular comics, which sell to my 30 year old customer base, isn't what the parents want to buy for them (though many are just fine, just not what they're expecting.)

Comics originally weren't really designed for kids, per se. Kids just happened to pick up on them, and if their parents disapproved, so much the better.

What happens most often -- and it happened with Spider-man, and Hulk, and Daredevil and so on -- is that I try to show the current offering, the material I actually have in stock or can get, and the customer will look confused and say,

"This isn't what I remember....."

But, heck, if they hadn't watched a T.V. show in 20 or 30 years and turned on the Telly today, they'd be just as confused. What I do is show them the comics from 10 or 20 years ago, and often that will satisfy them. I'll just be darned if I know how that is going to turn them into 'current' comic readers.

So, I'm happy about the Iron Man movie, and I'm happy about the FCBD coverage....but....

How to explain it.

Spring movies and other spring events aren't the real start of my business uptick. The real start up of business for my store -- and the rest of Bend, for that matter -- is the start of summer.
I'm driving a two ton car down the road, and I'm still heading up a steep hill for the next two months, and then at the top, around June 15 or so, I'll be rolling down the other side of the hill for two or three months.

These special events are like a strong tail wind. Nice to have, but not really pushing the two ton car up the hill.

But I'm grateful for any activity in the meantime.

Wow. Reading this over, I see how good I am at making lemonade back into lemons.

Let me put this a different way; I think all these events are going to lay the foundation for a great summer, and a much better spring than I otherwise would have had.



IHateToBurstYourBubble said...

Right into summer, where I will resume my previous every week reordering scheme, but at a strict budget. (No exceptions.)

Wanna bet a burrito?

Anonymous said...

You might already have seen this but if not ..... NPR did an interesting piece on retailer debt / credit squeeze and the extent of over-built retail. It's at:

Duncan McGeary said...

Might be worth it, just to find out who you are, Paul-dah....