Saturday, April 23, 2011

"Putting on the Clown Suit."

There is an extensive interview of three comic retailers over on Comic Book Resources , in which one of the retailers says about digital comics: "Only a fool ignores a tsunami."



I don't quite believe it. I think it is vast overstatement.

Especially this comment:

"It’s the difference between radio and television. And it’s here. Think about that. Print comics are radio. Digital comics are TV."

Oh, come on.

I just deep down don't buy the idea. In fact, I've been arguing the opposite. That digital can't replace the tactile experience of reading books and comics. (I won't go into all the reasons here; I've stated them over and over again.)

But with the realization that I could be wrong -- with the understanding that I have been wrong in the past with the advent of new technology...well......

...if I'm wrong, I'm near enough to the end of my career, that I can bail if I need to. ( A nice luxury that.)

Personally, I think there will be room for the old-fashioned bookstore, and the old-fashioned comic store, and the old-fashioned game store, and the old-fashioned record store --- not a whole lot of them but maybe one per town. And ironically, that one store may survive because the big boys -- the Blockbusters and the Borders and the Barnes & Nobles and the Best Buys crumble, leaving the field to those who remain faithful.

I mean to be that one store.

I call it "Making a virtue of necessity."

I've been hearing the opposite thing for the last 10 to 15 years. The internet is the answer. Having promotions is the answer. Outreach, advertising, special events....any and every harebrained idea, everything but, you know........... being a store.

A store. Selling product. (Book-books). Displaying and servicing and being knowledgeable about product. You know, all that boring stuff.

Take care of the basics. Have the product. Have enough, but not too much of the product. Display it nicely. Make sure you buy at as cheap of prices as possible, and sell for the best price possible. Know your product. Interact with the customer. Greet them when they come in the store. Make sure you keep regular hours. And so on.

No, we're doomed if we don't have a circus in front of our store every summer weekend.

I call it "Putting on the Clown Suit."

Hey, you know that girl with the guitar sign on the corner of 3rd Street and Wilson? It may be that all her dancing is effective -- but, really, is it worth it?

So I will reside in my dignity and look people in the eye and say, "We sell books. We sell comics. We sell games and toys and cards and DVD's. We don't discount. We don't sell online. We don't sell coffee and no, you can't sit at a table and play games all day, or lay on the couch and snore with a opened book over your eyes...."

We don't do anything but be a store. A real store, you know, with product....

I'm pretty used to the fact that the vast, vast majority of people don't know about my store. Despite having been in the same damn location for nearly 30 years. Despite having the same smiley (?) face behind the counter. Despite diligently doing my job.

I'm used to the fact that the vast, vast majority of people walk past my store.

I'm used to the fact that of those who do wander in my store, most don't buy much if anything.

So what else is new?

What I don't buy is that "Putting on the Clown Suit" will change the fundamental nature of that fact.

Here's what's kind of funny to me.

Most of those store owners who ARE interviewed about "Putting one the Clown Suit" appear to be way more worried about the future than I am. And what is also funny is all the stores that have come and gone in the last decade or so proclaiming to the high heavens that the way to survive is to promote, promote, promote.

And most of them are gone. Gone....and I'll bet you anything, they are still thinking probably that they didn't promote enough...

Maybe not funny. More sad.

I'd love for more people to know about my store.

I'd love for more people to walk into my store.

I'd love for more people to buy once they are in my store.

But I don't believe that "Putting on the Clown Suit" will accomplish that.

My longevity and viability and satisfaction in my store, bear that out, I think.

And like I said, I'm near enough to the end of my career that I can bail out if I have to. But I really believe that won't be necessary. I'll watch the circus outside my store and on the internet and shake my head and just keep on doing my thing...

So I will reside in my dignity and look people in the eye and say, "We sell books."


OHDG said...

Ha I love the Little Caesar's lady... but I'll be damned if I shove a piece of their crappy pizza in my mouth. Met a few folks who say it gives them the runs.

Kevin said...

What a great post. Just found your comic shop along with this blog today and stopped in there with my 3 year old. Picked up a few missing issues and cancelled my online subscriptions and will be getting all my comics from you from here out. Great kid you have working there very helpful, nice and professional.

The digital comics just don't hold there own. There's something about holding the comic, seeing the art in ink that you just can't replicate on a screen or an iPad. Or maybe it's just the smell.

I look forward to browsing and buying more things from your store. So much in there I couldn't take it all in with my 3 year old in tow. But he's enjoying the new Batman action figure I picked up for him there. I'll definently be back to set up some subscriptions with you.

Thanks for being around. Most people don't realize the little guys do it right. You don't get the same service or treatment from those big box stores.


Nighttime said...

I have been coming to your store for years. I just gave up on comics in general because they cost too much and they have tweaked the characters and storylines so much they are unrecognizable.
I mostly purchase books related to my peculiar interests and have used your shop for many gift giving occasions. And been grateful I found a unique item I may add.
But I am guilty of walking in and not buying anything. Sometimes because you just don't have anything that interests me or that I can afford. $20+ for a action figure boggles my mind. But more often than not I walk in to ground myself in imagination and fantasy. It stirs my creativity and it gets me going to pick up the pen or pencil again and let my mind go on a journey.
Just because I may not purchase anything doesn't mean I do not appreciate your store. But when I can get that special item, I know exactly the store I try first.