My annual write around on the yearly meeting of the retailing organization ComicsPRO was in PW yesterday, including new president Thomas Gaul’sfirst interview. As usual, reports from the show were all about positivity and productivity and good sales news.
[Gaul] also noted the cautiously expanding economy as a factor. “Customers were at a comfort level where they didn’t feel like they could spend any money, but that’s changing. Retailers are also getting more comfortable with the idea that digital isn’t trying to destroy them. The reports that I’ve seen are that print sales are up at a higher number than the overall total of digital sales last year. It’s got retailers feeling a lot more positive.” Areas of previous anxiety—too many variant covers and erratic shipping schedules—weren’t much discussed, he said.
The ComicsPRO meeting is not open to the press, but this one seems to have been productive and chipper—the best way to follow along is a Twitter search. Newsarama has some tidbits. Matt Price posted some news from the event, including Diamond’s Chris Powell’s keynote speech which gave, I think, a nice summation of how comics retailing got us to the trending upwards place we’re at now:
All this success can be traced back to comic shops, who toughed out the rough times and sang the praises of this medium to everyone who would listen and some who didn’t want to. You sent your employees to help educate librarians and to reach out to PTA’s and school boards. You donated comics to school programs and taught kids how to draw their first comics. You sent comics to military posts around the world and dropped them off in doctor’s waiting rooms where they would find their way into the hands of young readers. You are the reason for all that we are now enjoying, and that’s why we have to make sure that quality stores like yours are here today, tomorrow, and for years to come
Retiring president and one of the driving forces behind ComicsPRO’s founding, Joe Field, delivered some closing statements:
As a handful of you may have read in my statement in the meeting binders, I’ve been through the hopeful formings and sad dismantlings of several retailer trade organizations… And the saddest were the ones in which I was the last “leader” of each group tasked to turn out the lights. That happened with BACR, then happened with the Northern California chapter of CBRI, then again with the Direct Line Group. [snip]
While it sure doesn’t look like anything can take our market down, really the one thing that can is our own complacency. If we’re standing still, then we’re losing ground. And I know from hearing from so many of you this week that you will not let that happen –to our own operations or to an important entity like ComicsPRO.
The beautiful thing — and something I could never say about previous retailer orgs — is that this one is going to last.
I think evident in both these statements is just how far the remaining comics retailers have come—as I’ve theorized here many times, surviving in this business isn’t a gimme, and a lot of Android’s Dungeon-type stores just haven’t been able to go on in a world where reaching out to libraries and setting up webstores and tweeting is as necessary as setting up pull lists. Luckily, the vast majority of retailers I know are passionate and dedicated and know they have to give what it takes—and I’m happy to report that they have all been telling me that sales are up across the board. When best practices really do pay off, it’s good for everyone.
[Photo of the new ComicsPRO board from their Facebook page.]
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.