I’m here in beautiful Chicago for the Diamond Retailer Summit and C2E2, and events kicked off last night at the renovated (at least since last year) Hyatt bar, as do so many convention experiences. The theme was tiki, which included colorful mugs, leis and some tropical cocktails.

I joked on Twitter that I was going to be able to ask retailers how much longer the comics industry was going to last, and the mood wasn’t quite as upbeat as it usually is; everyone seems to have lost a buddy along the way. Every retailer I chatted with knew of a shop that had closed, often down the road. The reasons aren’t always simple, though. This shop had its lease raised. This shop expanded too fast. That one’s owner just decided it was time to pack it in.

“It feels like the ’90s again,” one retailer said, a quote that should set of alarm bells everywhere. It wasn’t necessarily  that everything is doomed, just that were at the end of a natural cycle and another cycle is beginning.

Some retailers are still having strong years and are untouched by the slowdown. For others its all relative. “I was down 6% last year,” said another store owner “but it was down from my best year ever.”

One thing that does emerge after even a few minutes talking to retailers is how invested in their businesses they are. The survival of a comics shop is generally based on their ordering efficiency but also customer service, knowing who buys what kind of books and being able to make recommendations, pull lists and knowing people by name. It’s all part of what’s required to stay in this business.

Representatives of almost every publisher are here braving the gusty, frigid spring Chicago winds. Kreminlologists would have had a field day noticing who was huddling with whom last night. It’s the end of the cycle, indeed and people are positioning themselves to have a place in whatever emerges from the whirlwind.