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    • CommentAuthorDarkest
    • CommentTimeMar 15th 2011 edited
    Okay, so. I'm opening a comic shop in the UK and I'm new to this so I'm probably going to be asking a lot of basic questions. Any Advice you can give me would be great.

    I graduated a while ago and just could not get a job. The old not enough work experience story. So I did the old assessment of what I was capable of and this shop went up for sale and I saw an opportunity and took a crowbar to it.

    So. Dos and Do nots. Stuff people miss. Also anybody who buys comics give me what you look for/ like in a comic shop.

    Niche Comics
    • CommentAuthorColby
    • CommentTimeMar 15th 2011
    Sure here' s the things I enjoy from the stores I go to.

    A friendly atmosphere that makes people feel welcome
    Events man, it's all about the events. Host some events, sell some beer and other refreshments as you host, I don't know a Doctor Who Marathon or something.
    Sell some plastic crack. Also known as some Games Workshop, Privateer Press, etc.
    Be Knowledgeable about several different titles, not just the ones you like but all of them.

    That's all I got.
    • CommentAuthorDarkest
    • CommentTimeMar 15th 2011
    Thanks for that. Yeah I have some Ideas for events. Especially since I'm hopefully going to be taking over the selling of Games Workshop products in my area.
    • CommentTimeMar 15th 2011
    I don't know UK, so can't tell if anything I say is applicable. Be warned.

    Comic stores here are either established bookstores who seek a new market/high-culture/pop/underground cred, or the other kind.

    The other kind is speciality stores who make a living off importing stuff, beating the established bookstores by not waiting for the translation - which, of course, will never come for much of this stuff. Japanese manga, bandes dessineés, anglo comics, often several versions in different translations, grabbing a little bit of anything and everything vaguely related; like a Forbidden Planet fell on a ren-faire market as it was being invaded by doom metal fans. If they haven't got something, they'll usually offer to order it, or google it up and tell you to come back next week...

    Oh, and there's one of a third kind - my favourite, which fills its ground floor with political literature, biographies, documentaries, art, zines, pamphlets, and crams the cellar full of comics.

    A common feature of both the former kinds is that they maintain devoted customers from several generations of the various scenes they sustain, and appear to keep a very good ear to the homeground of the various alt cultures and hobby circles that make up their customer base, and which they are instrumental in sustaining and shaping. And the people owning and working in the stores are all actively part of one scene or other.

    I'm really curious to hear how these things go in the UK?
    • CommentAuthorDarkest
    • CommentTimeMar 15th 2011
    The intent is to get by on as little super hero stuff as possible. Ideally anyway, I intend to be as flexible as possible about that. I mean I have the advantage that there are a great deal of adaptations etc coming out. That and I got sick of how boring my high street is.

    The nearest comic shop is a Forbidden Planet usually have a limited selection when I'm in there. Primarily the Big Two and a whole ton of stuff people don't seem to buy. I'm hoping I make sense because I have a driving lesson in half an hour.
  1.  (9654.6)
    Second hand - if you don't have a cheap/reduced/ second-hand/buy-in-cheap-sell-out-for-a-little-more function, kids'll come in with 50p and leave empty-handed.

    Hook 'em while they're young [on the flip-(non-commercial-)side: inspire them while at their most creative] and give the poor amongst us a chance.

    Also - drinks and tables. One of the things I always get disappointed about with London comic shops [not that there were any where I grew up in Wales but I glimpsed it in Toronto...or a dream of Toronto...I don't know, whatever, my brain hurts] is their lack of ability to provide anywhere to SIT DOWN AND READ.

    Orbital had it before they moved.
    Then they moved out of their grungy ass [read: loveable] basement and got clean and shiny with good light. I like clean and shiny with good light - I just also like a bloody sofa [yes, there must be blood on it].

    So...yes: cheap & somewhere to read.

    On a business level, this equates to small, regular custom that stays there all day: 1 drink = £1 [3 drinks a day and they're reading the comics that they then buy the trade of...or somesuch...maybe - that's probably the dreamiest business plan I've ever put together but this was written over lunch.

    Hope it helps.
    • CommentTimeMar 15th 2011 edited
    When you get to know your regular customers, add some comics you think they'll enjoy to their pull list. The comic store I went to moved three years ago and I STILL remember how awesome that was.
  2.  (9654.8)

    1. All of the above comments

    2. Respond to email enquiries quickly ("yes, we've got issue #345 of Blah in stock - I'll put it to one side for you until Saturday if you want - just tell us who you are at the till and it's yours

    3. Set up a Twitter feed and announce all your new stock (or a link to a "latest arrivals" page on your website) as it comes in. Do this regularly so that people anticipate your (weekly?) announcements. The rest of the time just talk about comics on Twitter and always reply to any "@" tweets

    4. Set up a blog where you talk about comics/graphic novels you like - if someone in the shop mentions one of your posts then talk to them about it enthusiastically

    5. Put a pic of yourself on the website with your name - it changes you from 'sales assistant' into Adam, the guy who knows about comics

    6. change your default email address from "info@..." to "adam@..."

    • CommentAuthorOddcult
    • CommentTimeMar 15th 2011
    When dealing with Diamond, tell, don't ask.

    If you tell them you're expecting something, they'll usually deal with it.

    If you ask them if they can do something for you, they won't.
    • CommentAuthorDarkest
    • CommentTimeMar 15th 2011
    Thanks Guys.

    I have been making designs on a chiller cabinet for drinks and stuff. Seats, well I haven't seen the main place stripped empty yet but it has an area with benches. I have a whole second floor.

    I have planned to make a twitter account for the shop. And yes, got to make a more personal e-mail.

    Good stuff, lots of stuff to take on board.
    • CommentAuthordkostis
    • CommentTimeMar 15th 2011 edited
    A few tips in no particular order.

    Superheroes will put food on your table.

    If you have a pull and hold service stay on top of it. How you handle that will be up you. Just remember that it's not comics sitting on the shelf, it's your money. Two months later anyone who wanted those titles already have them. Pay special attention to the person who is ordering books in advance and then putting a few things back on the shelves. They are speculating at your expense.

    Track your inventory religiously. Order date, arrival date, number of copies, number of preorders, cover price, your sale price (if you offer a discount),
    number sold, quick notes on selling points (crossover events, guy down the street got it first, your staff likes/dislikes it). Start when you order and pay attention to these numbers when making new orders.

    Adjust orders as quick as you can. Every unsold copy of a monthly is eating the profit of about two that sold. Selling sixteen copies of a monthly seems good, but if you have four left from an order of twenty you have lost half your profit.

    Events cost money in the short term but can keep your store in the customers radar. If the people who come in for the events are already customers you are probably just shifting your sales date around (for example a customer who normally drops by on a Saturday comes in on a Friday for a signing has just shifted when he buys that week. It will look like the signing upped sales, but your Saturday will be down). Have them if you like them, but treat them as advertising.

    An advertised or regularly occuring sale event will lower your daily sales until after the event.

    Very few people who sit down and read a title in store will buy it.

    If you have staff, manage them. Tell them how you want things approached, Listen to what they say to customers and think about whether or not you want your business to be represented in that way. If you don't have management experience try to do some reading on it, rather then learn the hard way.

    Decide on a theft policy now.
    • CommentTimeMar 15th 2011
    When I was in Newcastle I visited Travelling Man for the 1st time and they have a big section at the front of the shop with slightly less known titles (ie not superheroes) which was cool. They also have at the front of the shop a few shelves with the staff's favourite books with some text written by each book, basically a short review of each. That was pretty cool to see since there's nothing like that in Glasgow.
  3.  (9654.13)
    Just to toss in my two cents...
    -If you don't like something that someone is buying you don't have to give your opinion unless they ask for it. And even then you can start the sentence with something along the lines of: "Not my thing, but I know some people like it because of...". Never discourage a customer from buying something unless you're damn sure it's something they won't like.
    -Having a sale every 2 months will make it so that people will wait until your sale to buy that set of trades, series of back issues, etc.
    -Always be willing to order something for a customer. (Also gets back to not discouraging a customer from buying something. Don't say something like: "We don't carry that because no one likes it.")
    -Snacks are a great idea. Pop, candy bars, possibly crisps (only possibly due to greasy fingers.)
    -Bathe every day.

    Some of these may be a little obvious but my current shop has a lot of the bad habits that I listed, and as for the ones already listed... well, that's to show that more than one person thinks they're a good idea.
  4.  (9654.14)
    More that I thought of:
    -When you do have a sale or event coming up make sure that you advertise it to everyone. I've missed more sales than not due to them just assuming that I pay attention to all 10 things stuck in their front window, most of which have nothing to even do with the store.

    -As Lazarus pointed out (and you said you'd do) use Twitter, Facebook, your site, etc. to talk to people. Often. At least once a week say something about your store. (New comics list is up, Warhammer game day this weekend, sale coming up, local convention happening, etc.)

    -Something that a local toy store does every once in awhile is they'll put a post up saying that the first person into the store to mention the post will get a free toy, comic, something but not say what it is. It's a good way to get people into the store as well as a way to get rid of your stuff that's not selling. Yes, they're usually pretty crappy give-aways but really, they're free! People can't really complain about that. ("Everything is better when it's free")

    -Know your product. I can't believe the amount of store owners/employee that don't read the comics that come out. Sure, you don't have to read all of them, but there's a few different stores in my area that can't tell you about anything other than the big events and even then I think it's only because they overhear customers talking about them.

    -Be friends with other stores in your area but still try not to send customers to them. One of the really good shops around me will, when asked if they have something and they don't, will take down the persons number and say that they'll see if they can find it and call them when they do. Once the person leaves they'll call one of the other stores that they like, ask if they have it, and if they do they'll go out there later on and pick it up then turn around and sell it to their customer for (as far as I can tell) the same price that they paid. Sure, you don't make any money that way, but it'll get people to come back to your store because you'll be the one that has a lot of stuff and the stuff that you don't you can find for the customer.

    -Talk to people. Be nice to them. Get to know them. Sounds silly to say, but a lot of people don't do this. Customer have more in their life than just comics. Ask them how their day at work, school, home was. Learn what they like and, if it's something you're familiar with, talk to them about it. (Don't pretend to know about something that you really don't. It's okay to say that you haven't tried the newest video game that they love because it gives them a chance to rant and rave about it. It makes them feel like you care because they're talking and you're listening instead of it being the other way around.) Granted, this whole thing can backfire if there's a few people in the store and the one that's talking doesn't realize that other people may need help so you have to be able to interrupt them and say something like: "Hold on, let me just see if these people need anything, I'll be right back."

    -Something to consider is how you display your new comics. My normal shop has this week, last week, and 2 weeks ago separated on their shelves and everything else in their backbins. Another one has everything out in alphabetical order with the last 3 or 4 issues behind the newest one. I prefer the first one as that way I can walk in every Wednesday, see what's new, and decide if there's anything off the shelf that I want. The owners at the other store do it that way so that if a new customer comes in they can see all of the stuff currently coming out. They'll also have a list of comics that came out that week, and for the two or three weeks before, in case you just want to look at the new stuff. (I tend to miss things on lists so it doesn't work so well for me.)

    -Know your demographic. My normal shop can't sell indy comics to save their lives. (They also don't advertise them all that well, but hey.) Some shops in the downtown core survive on indies. Do indies sell in your area?
  5.  (9654.15)
    At least one Cute Nerd Girl behind the counter!
  6.  (9654.16)
    I second the easy to follow layout. The store I went to before I moved to had a spot for new arrivals and then a section for 18+, Manga, Indie, Batman related, Superman related, Marvel (I think X-men related had their own section), DC, Misc, a kids section, etc. Everything was alphabetical. They did have the advantage of a large amount of space, but knowing where the new stuff was and that it could run out meant I came in every week (religiously), and where there were things I would be interested in meant I looked at them and then found very shiny things and impulse bought stuff. Some of my favorite comics are things that were too pretty and interesting to pass up.

    They also got to know me and knew what I liked, and would occasionally recommend something. Most of the time I bought it and loved it.

    And I cannot emphasize how great that it was clean, well lit, and organized. The store owner and workers were always friendly and not creepy. Some could tease a little, but never in a mean way. I have been in places that weren't those things. I did not go back. There was one place where towards the back there was a mattress on the floor, comics were strewn about everywhere, and the guy clearly did not take good care of himself. I think my friends said that they heard he was the inspiration for Comic Book Guy on Simpsons. The only reason I was in there was because I was with my friends and I couldn't get out soon enough.

    Um, I think that's it for now.
    • CommentAuthorMark R
    • CommentTimeMar 16th 2011
    Bookkeeping is important.
    Make sure you know how to keep up with it.
    If it's not your thing, pay someone who can keep it straight.
    • CommentTimeMar 16th 2011
    I have never run a comic shop, but i have run a business.
    Sure, it's nice if you really know your products, but the most important thing is to know and manage your business

    Make a budget and follow it.

    Six months from now, compare your numbers against the budget, do this every 6 months.
    Decide from the start when, if you don't make budget, its time to let go. How much money can you loose, how many months can you afford not to make a profit. Do NOT improvise this.

    People steal, your employees will sooner or later steal, your customers, probably some of your regulars, will steal.
    It's NOT the strange guy that looks suspicious in the corner that's the big thief, sure, he just put four Transmet. paperbacks in his pocket, that you can deal with, those are easy to catch and prevent.
    The problem will be that some of your best customers, people that hang out at your place everyday, people you like, they will steal, be prepared for that, be nice but be alert.
    Count the register yourself, don't allow employees to make refunds, corrections etc. tell them to leave a note and do it yourself.
    Keep inventory of the stock.

    Everyone's your customer, if something sells, that's all that matters. If the only thing that makes you money is Elfquest, then I'm sorry, but that's what you have to focus on.
    If a product don't make you money, you have to let go of it, later, when you have enough money to keep a few in stock, sure, knock yourself out. But in the beginning you have to be really careful with economy.

    Learn some basic economics, do it now, before you open.

    When you are about to buy something for the company, stop for a moment and ask yourself: Do i need this, or do i want it? And how will it benefit the company.
    If you just want it but don't need it, and it really wont benefit, don't buy it.

    When and if you start to make some money, it's really easy to go crazy and start expanding/buying lots of inventory and so on, don't. Save it because there will come a time when you'll need that money not to go out of business.

    When the first year has passed, you will have a very rough estimate of how sales looks throughout the year, use this information to make your new and improved budget for year 2.
    NOW your allowed to spend some money, it should be planned expenses and they should be in your budget and there should be some margins.

    It will take at least three years before you receive something that looks like a salary.

    You will cry.
    The highs will be euphoric, the lows will be crushing.

    Don't give up. And if you do, be proud and acknowledge that you have learned a lot and gained a lot of experience.
  7.  (9654.19)
    Here are a number of things I picked up from successful retailers on the CBIA over the years:

    - About 65% of your customers will be brand new readers. So you need to look at your store and ordering with that consideration in mind.

    - With comic books order a mile wide and an inch deep. Keep careful track of what sells and restock what does. There is no way to guesstimate how any title will sell at first. One store will have X-men as their top seller, another store two blocks down will have Superman as their best book. You may want to order 1-3 copies of the top 200+ books (depending on your budget) and just track and reorder what moves.

    - Your going to get stuck with a lot of books at first. One retailer I know said it was 6 months before somebody bought an issue of Batman. This is something every store goes through at first.

    - In particular, order trades. In many stores back issues are dead, most customers come in and scan the trades. They are effectively the new back issues. Some trades are ever green and continue to sell for years (ie. Watchmen).

    - Comics sell better when they have full front facings. It takes up a lot more space I know, but if you got the room to do it, then I'd recommend doing it.

    - Some stores have a separate 'new this week' rack, but other stores find that if you mix the 'new this week' along with last weeks stuff you'll sell more of last weeks stuff. Otherwise all that stuff is generally dead.

    - Also, keep track of creators that can keep a deadline. Better to hook new customers on books that will come out on time. Late books will frustrate customers, especially a new one that's not so die-hard and forgiving. If they want some steering on what to buy your better to recommend a Mark Bagley title vs a Frank Quietly.

    - Almost every retailer stocks and sell stuff they don't particularly enjoy, from particular books or other products. Don't let your prejudices keep you from making money.

    - Note, what you like may not be what your customers like. Don't order for yourself, order for your customers. A lot of shops go under because they order with their fanboy heart. Then end up with a mountain of books that they think are good and ought to sell, but just doesn't. As the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink.

    - Don't bad mouth anybody. This includes comics, creators, publishers, other stores, etc.. it only reflects badly on you. Basically you don't want to give your customers any reason to stop buying books.

    - Read Why We Buy by Paco Underhill. I also recommend Tilting at Windmills by Brian Hibbs. Don't take everything as gospel though. Take what you can use from them.

    - Don't discount, not worth it. This is something Brian Hibbs goes into detail discussing. Your sales would have to radically jump in order to pay for a 10% discount, a jump that is not at all likely. By discounting you are doing more work for less money. Even if your competition discounts, your best to beat them with better selection and service. A lot of customers shop because of the convenience of the location and aren't willing to go the extra distance for the discount. Some will, but your not likely to grab them from an established store anyhow.

    - Do cycle sheets and a physical inventory count. Don't just eye the racks. It's very smart to invest in a POS system, especially for trades. That will save you many, many hours in figuring out what books sold, how fast they are selling and helps you with re-ordering.

    - If your going to do pull & hold, make policies on when they have to be bought by and explain them to the customer (and stick to them). Do this so you don't get caught with a bunch of books, often times it's the 'good' customers that you know and trust that end up leaving you with books. You may want to go as far to get credit card info from the customer and make charging them to their card a part of the policy.

    - Kick out Cat Piss man (or other REALLY annoying customers). He's driving away other customers.

    - Always prosecute shoplifters. No matter how many tears they shed or whatever. Shoplifters talk to each other and if they can get away by shedding some tears and a sob story, they'll tell their friends and you'll be a target.

    - As with any business, location, location, location. Not to mention other basic 'starting a business' stuff applies. Have a business plan, realistic forcasts, etc..

    - Keep your window open (not filled with posters) so potential customers can see inside your store. Make sure the store is well lit.

    - Make the inside of your store friendly for everybody, consider not hanging up any 90s "bad girl" posters.

    - Don't get caught buying & getting stuck with a bunch of books you can't sell in order to get a variant cover for one customer. You're in this to make money, not lose it. You may have to give your customers the same terms the Diamond gives you. Buy 10 to get 1 if you can't sell 10 of X to your regular customers. Publishers and distributors are not neccessarily your friend. Sometimes they can be very short sighted and would rather trick you out of your money than work towards growth and long term sales.

    - Also, listen to your customers, not publisher hype. Order what you confidently believe you can sell based on your customers buying habits. Even if they think the next book will "break the internet in half."

    - Participate in and advertise your involvement of FCBD. Get as many new customers as you can. You get out of FCBD what you put in.

    - You should consider getting a website and your customers e-mail addresses. Ask for permission to mail the store related stuff. From lists of whats coming out next week and any special sales you run. As well, consider using Facebook and other very popular webpages to get your store known.

    - Strongly consider other distributors than Diamond. They'll likely have salable books that Diamond doesn't have in stock and/or may have a better deal on them (this especially applies to publishers outside the big 4 that make bookstores a priority). Plus they usually have some form of returnability. And ESPECIALLY if you are ordering Manga (which I recommend you do, and make sure your window shows you have Manga in stock -your superheroes won't read them, so you need to sell them to somebody different.) But also for some art/indy stuff with a lot of media attention and good sales. Ghost World, Persepolis, etc..

    - When you are hiring staff, strongly consider hiring a woman if they meet the qualifications. They'll make other woman feel comfortable shopping at your store. Keep an eye out for customers going kooky over them as your staff shouldn't feel uncomfortable working in your store. Worth ethic and customer service skills are more important that product knowledge.
  8.  (9654.20)
    Put the superhero stuff at the back of the shop. The superhero fans will find it, but you have opportunies the length of your shop floor to show them other stuff as they walk to it.

    How's your disabled access?

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