Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My counter-intuitive solution.

I just got a gander at the comic sales charts for the last 5 years -- and it ain't a pretty sight.

I knew it, of course. I've been living through it. But I hadn't seen such clear confirmation that it was happening throughout the industry until now.

I have managed to cover most of the decline by bringing in boardgames and new books. The revenue from these two products has more or less replaced the lost revenue from comics.

New books, especially, would seem kind of counter-intuitive. I mean, aren't they dying?

Except, even the weakest products have a certain base of strength which can be tapped into. I know that when I order the "Song of Ice and Fire" books, that they are going to sell. I know that if I carry Catch-22, and Confederacy of Dunces, and 1984, that I will sell them on a steady basis. I don't have to take risk on the newest hardcover best-sellers; which are carried by the major chains. No, I can look at the track record of books already in existence and pick the best of them.

Same with boardgames -- and all my other sidelines. I can pick the product I know will sell, without taking on the risk of trying everything new that comes out, or trying to be all things to all people in the depth of my inventory.

Having a full-service new bookstore as my main business would be much more challenging. (Though I'm egotistical enough to think I could do it; I have a business plan all mapped out in my head.) Being a full-service game store would be much more challenging.

I like to think of my store as a "Pop-Culture General Store"; where I'm likely to have most of what you're looking for. I let the specialty stores in each niche carry the 80% of the product that doesn't sell as well. That's their job. My job is to have a nice sampling in each of the pop-culture categories I carry.

I've mentioned this analogy before, but it is so apt, I just have to mention it again. There was a Mythbusters episode where they tested different materials for ropes, such as hair, toilet paper, and linens. All of the materials worked, as long as you strung enough strands together. Alone, no one strand is even close to strong enough -- together, they become strong.

So, counter-intuitively, I'm stringing together enough pop-culture strands to make a strong whole. Put 6 or 8 losers together, and they become a winner.

That's the theory.

By the way, this isn't the easiest of solutions. It meant I had to invest in each of the new product lines so that I would have permanent inventory. With the old rule of thumb that I have to sell an item 4 times to make the profit I would've made from one sales if I still want to keep that item in stock, such a maneuver requires a fair amount of long-term planning.

I did most of it through cash-flow, instead of borrowing the money.

I was earning enough profit to divert it into new product lines. (Which means, of course, that my profit is still tied up in the inventory -- which is a bitch to extract.) That's why to so-called boom wasn't as good for my store as it was for others, because I was busy diversifying.

It also meant I had to take the time and space to make it work.

I was worried enough about overall sales levels to go ahead and make the gamble.

Now I'm glad I did.

You can't make a profit with product you aren't carrying...


Anonymous said...

Do sunbirds buy comic books?

Certainly game-boards do well in a depression.

Certainly comics are on a rebound, with all the buzz from movie content.

I'm sure tomorrows children will embrace the concept of something they can hold in their hands in the toilet room, other than an iPad. I think a good MAD MAGAZINE kept a lot of my friends happy on the stool when I was a kid.

Talking about comics where the the fuck is HBM?

xxx 000 xxx

Duncan McGeary said...

"Certainly comics are on a rebound, with all the buzz from movie content."

You'd think that. It would make sense.

Funny thing is -- or not so funny -- is that movies have had almost no effect on comics, especially superhero movies.

I think it surprised all of us at first, but when #1 movie after #1 movie came out with no effect, we've gradually come to realize that movies don't affect comics all that much, except in individual titles, like Watchmen, or the 300, and then the effect is limited to that moment in the sun.

Comics, for good or ill, are on their own, I think.

I wonder if Barnes and Noble or digital comics will change that.

My guess is -- not.

Duncan McGeary said...

Too bad, too, because the artform itself is better than ever.

If I told you opera was having a golden age, would most of you go to an opera? Probably not.

If you loved the Unforgiven, did you immediately go out and buy a western novel? Probably not.

Comics can be great, even if no one reads them.

IHateToBurstYourBubble said...

PLEASE write about The Bully filing Chap 11 today!