It seems Dan DiDio and Jim Lee have been making the media rounds and the topic of Walmart has been popping up all over the place. The latest is an interview with ICV2 and we just went a lot further down this distribution rabbit hole.
DiDio named the vendor that’s stocking the Walmart shelves for them. It’s MJ Holding and that could potentially open up quite a few other possibilities if things keep working out.
What exactly is MJ Holding? An excellent question. They’re the largest North American distributor of trading cards. Which is to say, they’re the ones who put the sports cards and the Magic cards and the Pokemon cards in that aisle in Walmart. But that’s not the only place the work with. If you have a look at their retail partner page, you see they also work with Target, Shopko (smaller chain that’s somewhat similar to Walmart) and grocery chain Meijer. If were complaining about these comics not being in Canadian Walmarts, guess what? MJ Holding also works with Walmart Canada. They apparently used to work with Toys ‘R Us and K-Mart, but… well, maybe if they revive the Ghosts comic…
Right now, DiDio says they’re going to re-evaluate things in six months. Which makes sense. That’s plenty of time for people to get used to the idea of there being comics in Walmart and to see how an anthology of serialized stories plays out over time. They’re leading with serialized stories, because that’s what they’ve been doing for last… what… 20 years? 25 years? We’ll find out if the newsstand is as fond of 5-12 part serials as the Direct Market is when the back issues are perhaps less convenient to come by.
I do have some concerns about new readers in some of the areas picked clean by speculators trying to jump in with issue 2 or issue 4, but six months is enough time to get a feel for that.
The first priority for DC seems to be figuring out the market with what’s essentially a fairly large scale pilot program and then getting into the rest of the Walmarts. But, they’ve got a distributor who could, theoretically, get them placed in a lot more places potential new readers shop at. It’s far, far too early for them to think about adding multiple chains – everyone involved needs a better idea of long term sell-through, at a bare minimum. But, you look at that client list and it’s not very hard to see some possibilities if this works at Walmart.
One of the big mysteries everyone has been trying to figure out is the restocking. DiDio says this has been exacerbated because they launched with all four titles at once, so it was two weeks before there was any restocking. And then he said something I’m not 100% sure how to interpret:
Just for the first month. What happened was that we’re on a release pattern of two books every two weeks. We wanted to launch with all four books at the start. That’s the reason why there’s a restock taking place. Instead of two weeks later introducing two new titles, they’re actually restocking with four titles. Starting in the month of August, you’ll get two new books every two weeks.
Are we supposed to interpret that as no more restocking? That two issues drop and what you see is all you get? Then in two weeks, two more issues drop? If things haven’t sold out, will the previous issues stick around or get removed? Is there only a two week window for purchase from here on out?
His statement spawns a lot more questions and it will be very interesting to see what happens when the #2 issues arrive . It will also be interesting to hear what happens at the stores where that cardboard display was either thrown away after things sold out or “walked out” with a fan.
Fasten your seat belts, a lot of these questions are going to be answered over the next month.