A few updates on the Diamond POS/bar code story that’s been bubbling under for a few weeks now.
Steven Grant is big enough to admit he flubbed (we’ve all been there, Steven) in his previous comments on bar codes:
I guess I lead a more sheltered life than I thought, from all the emails I got from all around the world telling me about the bar code systems their local comics shops employ. (And many that don’t.) The ones that employ the systems mainly seem to be: chain shops; shops affiliated with book or record stores; shops strongly dependent on merchandise sales or the gaming market where comics amount to a special service or an afterthought; well-established independent comics shops. Even Brian Hibbs dropped a line to say that within a couple years it’s unlikely that his Comix Experience in San Francisco will even carry anything that doesn’t have a bar code – and he’s got one of the more inclusive comic shops in existence. So I owe Diamond a retraction/apology: while I suspect more that one motive is at work (no, I’m not implying anything sinister) in their bar code plan, it’s clear they’re mainly looking to better serve their clientele.
Steven does go on to posit that small indie publishers are endangered, just not because of bar codes.
Next, ICv2 has a must read update on Diamond’s new POS system and why its needed.
According to Fletcher, only about 10% of Diamond’s customers currently use point of sale systems (about 25% of stores with a POS system use RMS). That is a serious barrier to success in a business that is increasingly competitive with large chain specialty retailers. In fact, it may be one reason why graphic novel sales in bookstores have been growing much more rapidly than graphic novel sales in comic stores, to the point where bookstores sold twice as many graphic novels as comic stores in 2006 (based on ICv2 research, reported in the ICv2 White Paper at the ICv2 Graphic Novel Conference in February, see “Graphic Novels Outsell Comics”).
Comic stores without POS systems find it difficult to keep key graphic novel titles in stock, order new titles accurately, or get off losers on a timely basis, while book chain software supports efficient execution of all of those functions. Coupled with efficient distribution that gets new titles to stores quickly, returnability, and publisher promotional support for special displays, book chain POS systems provide an almost insurmountable competitive advantage on graphic novels vs. comic stores without such systems. And as the importance of the book channel to comic publishers grows, more product is developed with that channel in mind, it gets more support, and the channel shift continues and accelerates.
Much more in link, including the fact that Diamond’s system is not the only game in town: “Mel Thompson’s ComicTrac, Moby from Bitter End Systems (developed originally for Star Clipper in the St. Louis area), and the free software offered by Hijinx all include features specifically for comic stores.” (Brian Hibbs’ much publicized adventures in POS use the MOBY system, not Diamond’s.)