The awe inspiring conclusion to owning a comic shop

Posted by & filed under Shop Talk.

If you haven’t read the first two parts read this first…and then read this.

So what have we learned so far?  Keep your store clean and organized and have non-creepy knowledgeable staff.  This is really about 90% of the battle but it’s amazing how many stores lose the war.  Here are some parting tips and thoughts as I wrap this three parter up:

I’d read an interesting statistic a few months ago and everyone knows how numbers on the internet are 100% true.  The article quoted a statistic that went something like this:  32% of comic related internet sales are made by women.  In comparison 12% of comic related brick and mortar sales are made by women.  What does this mean?  It means that there are a whole lot of women who would rather buy their comics and knick knacks from the safety of their own homes rather than in a store.  A part of this can be attributed to the ease of internet sales but a big chunk of this is because there are a lot of women who feel uncomfortable at the thought of entering a comic shop.  There’s a stigma attached to most stores…that they are dark and unclean hobbit holes full of leering socially awkward basement dwellers.  Don’t be a hobbit hole.  If you are a hobbit hole you are alienating a huge chunk of clientele.  Women don’t like hobbits.  Also, don’t stereotype women (except when you categorically state that all women dislike hobbits).  I always think it’s funny when a comic store employee shambles over to a woman and when they ask for recommendations it’s always Strangers In Paradise and Fables.  I mean…like every time.  As if no other comics exist in the world.   Assume every customer, regardless of gender, has the potential to enjoy any well written book. Women and children (we’ll get into kid’s books at a later date) are a largely untapped market that every good store should focus on.

There’s an old saying that you only get out of something what you put into it.  If you want the comic community to frequent your store you need to give back to the community.  My good friend Joe C. got me thinking about this a while ago.  Community building is an integral part of good business practices.  Here’s what I mean by community building:  Hosting art events, doing food and clothing drives for local shelters, going to schools and showing kids how awesome it is to read a comic, etc.  Donating a little time and money can go a long way towards fostering a sense of shared community and goodwill and also just general exposure.  If your only focus as a comic store owner is to make a buck to the exclusion of all else then you are a failure.  By giving to the community you are indelibly leaving your imprint on the people around you.

In conclusion to my conclusion I’ve had a lot of people ask me, “Tony, why are you writing an article that might help your competitors conduct their business better?”  I’ve actually got a great self serving answer.  Have you ever heard the old saying that if you give someone a positive experience he’ll probably only tell one person?  But if you give a person a bad experience he tells everyone.  Right now the comic industry has a somewhat negative dingy “man-cave only” feel to it.  Every time someone walks into a bad store and has a bad experience it perpetuates that view.  I was at a local pub a week ago and bumped into one of my customers and she told me, “My first experience with a comic shop was in Louisville and I almost never went back to another store because the place was so gross.”  I imagine she probably told her horrifying experience to a number of her friends and thus further promoted the “icky nerd-cave comic store” image which in turn leaves her friends less likely to visit a comic shop.  Bad stores hurt the industry as a whole.  Good stores counter the stereotype and foster a growth in the comic community.  Be a good store and everyone will prosper.