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Recession Watch: Trouble at comics retail

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The LA Daily News profiles Earth-2 Comics in Sherman Oaks, and reports that sales are definitely down:

In the year leading up to its Black Friday post-Thanksgiving supersale, Earth-2 Comics owners said it suffered a 20 percent drop in revenue.

That means one in five buyers who had eagerly appeared each Wednesday to pick up such hot-off-the-press hits as “100 Bullets” were thumbing through frayed back issues instead.

Earth-2 Comics owners Jud Meyers and Carr D’Angelo remain hopeful those readers will come back.

“We open earlier now, and close later, because every hour counts,” said Meyers, of the upscale bookstore at 15017 Ventura Blvd. “It’s not that we’re in a downturn, but we’re in a holding pattern.

“But in a time of fear, people want entertainment. They’re going to the movies. And people still want to read comic books.”


The story also includes a chilling tale of a wife who wishes to sell her husband’s comic book collection to raise money — without his knowledge. This sounds like a potential ticket to Forensic Files, if you know what we mean.

  1. Use to be, getting an Eisner was a kiss of death to retailers before they changed the rules about how many years one had to be in business in order to qualify. I was happy to see Earth 2 get their due with this award because of their strong grasp of retail reality (good business sense, customer service, clean floors, etc).

    But with the economy being blamed for the constant neck-choking of all print and internet media, nobody it seems is vulnerable. Like Earth 2, Zeus is holding pattern. About all we can do at this point is do our best to weather the storm… and try to stop our publisher from pulling stupid promo tricks.

  2. I was pleased to read that Earth-2 is working the marketing angle. Emailing, phoning. My city has three comic shop/ gaming stores. None of them do anything to market outside their store. I think that smart marketing will be the key to survival for retailers this year.

  3. This article doesn’t make any sense.

    It states instead of buying NEW comics, 1-in-5 customers are “thumbing through frayed back issues instead” which means they are STILL buying something, just not new comics. If the store in question is seeing a “20 percent drop in revenue”, does this mean they are giving away their back issues for FREE?

    The article SHOULD have said “…one in five buyers who had eagerly appeared each Wednesday to pick up such hot-off-the-press hits as “100 Bullets” have stopped buying comics altogether”

    Hardly fair to blame the economy if all the customer is doing is redirecting WHAT he spends his money on in the store, not IF he spends his money.

  4. Interesting, I was just noting on my site with regard to this the back-issues mention. The presence of a back-issue section, which many shops have moved away from, puts something in the store at a price point below $4 that wouldn’t otherwise be there. You want them showing up and buying something, just to keep them in the habit until times improve.

    A discount section (quarter-or dollar-box-or-whatever) is never going to replace the revenue lost from the new comics purchases — something that size is going to earn less per square foot. Having the option for cash-strapped customers to step down into, though, isn’t bad — if we consider making sure people are taking some comics, any comics, home each week as important to keeping them in the audience.

  5. Is it a sign that I’m old and crusty that I prefer shopping at stores with good back issue stock.

    Given how there are weeks when I get no new books, I like being able to get some wacky 70s back issue, so that my trip to the store (at least 30 minutes to any local store) isn’t a complete waste.

  6. “Is it a sign that I’m old and crusty that I prefer shopping at stores with good back issue stock.”

    I’m not sure what sort of sign it is that I get all of my comics as trades online and never go never a comic shop.

  7. Jud and Carr are probably the greatest guys selling comics in the valley these days.

    Reflections my days of retailing – is that most independently owned comic stores always had these weird set hours (Rookies & Allstars included) – that the stores, with the exception of Wednesdays would closed around 5 or 6 PM. Like as if we were operating on banker hours. And being located across a movie theater, you’d think one would want to stay open later on the weekend to catch the last movie crowd getting out – but also this ice cream shop and hot dog stand next door to us also closed early.

    As a small shop manager back in the day, the owners were just content on me making a $100 a day – then close shop

    We didn’t have such lofty goals back then. We just paid the rent and the bills and had fun.

    I was wondering if Jud and Carr had a dramatic drop in sales when Warner Bros Animation studios closed up shop at the Sherman Oaks Galleria?

    ~

    Coat

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    Coat

  8. Fortunately, I am in the “no such thing as bad publicity” camp.

    Thanks to everyone for the kind words and the analysis that the article doesn’t make sense.

    Correction: There is no 20% drop in yearly revenue at Earth-2. 2009 is actually up slightly from 2008. We’re not hurting. But that wouldn’t have fit into the series theme.

    If you click through to the Daily News site, you will see that the article is part of a series titled “Hard Times on Ventura Blvd: Is it a Boulevard of Broken Dreams?”

    The statistic that I offered was that October and November had slow weeks (due as much to delayed product) and buying patterns are changing. I had said sales of many comics are down 20% from last year, lower tier titles; I have been quoted about this in Comics Foundry and Newsarama. But we are actually selling more tpbs because customers want something more reliable. A volume of Y or Walking Dead for 14.99 is a better entertainment investment than 5 issues of 5 random superhero series.

    The great news about our business is that there’s always room for a great new series like Incognito or Secret Six. A good story is priceless and always finds its audience.

  9. “That means one in five buyers who had eagerly appeared each Wednesday to pick up such hot-off-the-press hits as “100 Bullets” were thumbing through frayed back issues instead.”

    While I have never visited Earth-2, I have found that the norm in Southern California Comic stores is for many customers to act as if they are in a Bookstore or Library and read through new and/or back issues for as long as they like without buying them. I certainly could be mistaken, but my impression of the sentence is that those former buyers are still coming in, but have switched to “non-paying customers” instead.

    I am not at all a supporter of the practice, beyond perhaps a quick glance at a book in the case of a creative team or new title that one might be unfamiliar with. But there are people at my lcs who will read for an hour or longer and either never purchase anything or nothing from the new comic racks.

  10. Carr, I had a feeling when walking through the series that something like that might have been the case — these kinds of news packages always seem to come with a template, intentional or not. I added your note to the link to this post on my site — glad to hear things were not as dire as reported.

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