Bl Cash RegisterA 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.)


  1. What will make the Diamond system a category killer, and will be the reason why many stores will make the switch is not because of the system, it’s technical ability, or anything else that you see on the store counter.

    It is the financing.

    It is almost a complete turnkey solution, all they need to do is package one of the stock counting services into the deal (which they are currently not, but are thinking of working out some discounts with one for retailers to take advantage of) and the switch becomes almost painless, with the improved efficiencies (probably) paying for (most of) the cost of the system as the system is being paid for. Rather than having to either pay for it ahead of time (by saving) or taking the risk (in the form of interest) that the system will be pay for itself after you buy it.

  2. It’s funny to me that the blame for comic stores not selling nearly as many trades as book stores is given to POS systems. First, one would need to know how many Diamond accounts carry ANY trades. Then, figure out how many of those buy trades for special orders only and don’t stock them. Oh, and lets not forget to account for the poor stocking at Diamond – half the time those key trades are out of stock, but can be quickly purchased from other book distributors. Finally, take a look at how many book publishers (including DC and Marvel) promote their presence in book stores but do not do the same for comic book retail stores.

    Yes, inventory management without a POS system has GOT to be time consuming (we’ve got one, so I don’t know how time consuming, but I can imagine). And yes, having bar codes on everything sure does make a POS system work better. However, having bar codes and/or putting a POS system into every comic book store WILL NOT make most of the stores any better and WILL NOT magically drive more people to those stores. Retailers STILL have to do some manual work, even with a POS system, and slapping a bar code on every item won’t change that.

  3. I am in the planning stages of opening my own comic book store. I have spent the day reading Lisa’s articles on ICv2 as well as other articles and useful information where ever I can find it. My own history is as a specialty merchandise retail manager with a degree in business/accounting. Lisa is right about the need for more specific information from Diamond to justify that claim. They are basicly comparing apples to oranges at this point.

    In my retail experience I have always used a POS system of one type or another. I have yet to see one that can meet the very unique needs of the direct market 100% and still be fully integrated with accounting software. I have talked to a few POS companies already and in my conversations I found that, unless I print barcodes for each item myself, putting comics into inventory by name and issue number is out of the question. I am looking forward to seeing a demo of what Diamond has come up with for the industry. Also, Bill mentioned a stock counting service. Having a handheld stock scanner like the ones you see at WalMart is very useful when reconciling your inventory on a POS system.

    Note to Lisa: Which POS are you using? Do you keep an itemized inventory of your back issues or just dump them into a back issue price catagory?