Pullbox-graphic_v1Half Life 3. Diablo 4. There are some things in life we’ve been waiting for so long it seems like they will never come out. But we can cross one thing off the list: Pullbox™, Diamond’s electronic ordering system for comics readers, will finally be released after more than four years of development. As of June 7th, readers can officially sign up.

The software allows consumers to manage preorders and subscriptions while tying in to comics shops inventory systems. According to a news release:

The service, which is currently wrapping up beta testing, already boasts an impressive list of existing users. There are currently more than 300 comic shops and 17,000+ consumers using PULLBOX to manage their weekly orders. PULLBOX users are managing more than 225,000 subscriptions on the platform, which supports the full list of products available in Diamond’s PREVIEWS catalog and beyond, including fan-favorites Image ComicsMarvel ComicsDC ComicsDark Horse ComicsIDW PublishingDynamite EntertainmentBOOM! StudiosVIZ MediaFunkoKotobukiyaMezco ToyzDiamond Select Toys and many more!

PULLBOX allows fans to use the PREVIEWSworld website to place orders directly with their local comic shop. A suite of easy-to-use tools allows consumers to synch orders with participating local comic shops, manage preorders & subscriptions, place special orders, keep a wish list, and track weekly purchases. It also provides customers with e-mail alerts for order confirmations and when items are available for pickup.

“We took advantage of an extended beta test period to add more features and enhance the functionality of these tools,” said Chris Powell, Chief Sales & Service Officer for Geppi Family Enterprises, a network of pop culture-related companies including Diamond Comic Distributors. “We have heard from many retailers already that PREVIEWSworld Pullbox has increased their sales while also providing added convenience for their customers and I am excited to be rolling it out to a much wider audience with this launch.”

Pullbox has been in beta testing for at least four years. I first wrote about it in 2018, when it was demoed at the Diamond Retailer Conference:

Powell also emphasized the launch of Pullbox, a new consumer facing software retailing tool that Diamond will roll out this summer, that is expected to help boost sales. Pullbox will go into beta testing this summer, with an August roll-out expected

At the 2019 Diamond Summit, release was expected for February 2020.

Obviously the pandemic scuttled that plan, but here we are at last.

Some kind of preordering system for the sprawling world of periodical comics has been in the works for a while — comiXology actually included a “pull list” system when it first launched a decade ago. Giving readers and shops a way to connect not only helped with ordering but, as I noted in 2018, helps manage the “FOC Gap” between when comics are publicized to retailers and available to readers. Being able to just hop on some kind of “Amazon for floppies” and order the issue when you read about it in the NY Times would be a great way to boost sales.

ComicHub is another stab at this kind of preordering system but combined with a POS suite for shops.

These kinds of ordering systems absolutely help retailers gain sales. When comiXology’s version moved to the sunsetted rest home, many retailers told me it meant they would lose sales. And for readers, it’s a very convenient and familiar system.

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At any rate, the delay for releasing Pullbox, and its timing after Diamond has lost both Marvel and DC periodicals, won’t move the needle much on the “Diamond is Nimble” charts.

And speaking of Marvel, Diamond at long last announced their terms on Marvel periodicals earlier this week. Although Penguin Random House will be Marvel’s main distributor to comics shops going forward, Diamond will still be able to sell them as a wholesaler, a business relationship that PRH has with many other distros.

Diamond thanks you for your patience as we carefully and deliberately reviewed how we approach Marvel Comics’ product offerings within the scope of our overall product mix. We are pleased to outline our new Marvel terms below.

As a reminder, Diamond remains your source for Marvel product now and in the future. The flow of Marvel product will continue as always, and you will not experience any disruption to Marvel product when you order through Diamond. We look forward to continuing to serve your needs.

Emphasis in the original.

The terms are available to retailers on the Diamond website, but I’ll append them as a PDF. Short version: 50% top discount and sliding scale for shipping. 

The headline, as given to me by my retail sources was “No free shipping.” PRH and other bookstore distributors offer free shipping as a matter of course. With Diamond unable — or unwilling — to compete on this level, even with top volume retailers like Midtown and DCBS losing their gaudy 56-57% discounts, the shock will be mitigated somewhat.

There isn’t much word on what the longer term game plan is at Diamond, given that they just lost their two biggest suppliers. Given the defiant nature of the boldfaced “Diamond remains your source for Marvel product now and in the future.” and proud declaration that you can get Marvel and DC Comics on Pullbox, I’d say a stubborn will to prevail is on the mood board.  To be fair, this will has seen Diamond through tough times in the past, and they are indeed scrappy survivors with a lot of still solid business.

But if the long delayed launch of Pullbox is any indication, they are also cleaning up the to do list to bolster those businesses.

 

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