Owning a comic store and how to run it, Part 2

Posted by & filed under Shop Talk.

If you haven’t read the first part, go back and read this.


Knowledge of the product is incredibly important.  Would you buy a car from a salesman if he didn’t know the difference between a stick shift and an automatic?  Would you listen to a movie review from someone who rarely watches movies?  Why would you want to buy a comic from someone who didn’t know a thing about comics?  I mean, honestly, many people just wander into a store and grab the same comics they’ve been collecting for the last 5 years regardless of whether it’s a good read or not.  A bad store owner is like the checker at a grocery store ringing up those books month after month.  They just take your comics…ring you up…and shove you out the door.  If you ask a question about the produce they’ll eyeball you like you just grew an elbow out of your ear.  THIS IS BAD COMIC RETAILING.  Everyone in my store can tell you a handful of things that Ed Brubaker has done.  We all know who Joe Hill is and why Locke & Key is one of the most fantastic reads ever.  Blacksad, Return of the Dapper Men, Elephantmen, DMZ…yeah…we read them.  Snyder, Hickman, McCann, Azzarello…we know them.  Don’t be afraid to wander into my shop and ask questions because we most likely know the answer.

Some folk would call what we do with this knowledge “upselling”.  You know…when you go into a restaurant and have your meal and then the waiter talks you into buying that strawberry cheesecake?  That’s upselling…making you buy something you had no intention of getting in the first place.  “Upselling” has a somewhat negative connotation to it so I like to refer to what my guys do as “Creatively Recommending A Book As Possible/Potential Longterm Enjoyment”…or “crabapples” for short.  (I totally made that up on the fly…in all reality we still call it “upselling” in the store)  Let me give you an example of the Collectibles Upselling Phenomena:

Customer comes to the counter with his weekly stack of books which are mostly Marvel and DC.  We notice that the top book on the stack is the latest issue of X-Men.

Our amazing manager Juett asks, “Oh, have you really enjoyed X-Men lately?”

“Well, of course I have…it’s been great for several issues now….totally an awesome page turner,” states the customer.

“Yeah…it’s been great since Brian Wood took over around issue 30.  He’s a pretty prolific writer.  Did you know he’s doing Ultimate X-Men and Massive right now?  He also did an amazing comic series called DMZ and Northlanders….let me tell you alllll about them.”

So the customer ends up dropping a few titles that he’s no longer excited about…adds a few titles totally worth reading and most likely will grab a trade or three.  Sure…we make more money (good comic retailing) but more importantly we got someone out of the rut of reading bad comics and got him to branch out into some great comics (better retailing).  Hopefully he’ll enjoy his new comics and come back and ask us for more advice on other great books to read (best retailing).

Lastly, it’s important for your sales people to be proactive about properly engaging the customer.  Ever been to a store where you aren’t even greeted when you walk in?  How about the one where you walk into the store and some staff member follows you around like you’re about to steal something?  I particularly enjoy the encounters where the staff member who’s wearing an unwashed 30 year old Claremont-era X-Men t-shirt and smells of rotten bananas and sadness tries to have a conversation with you about his D&D campaign while standing in your personal space.  Having knowledgeable but socially awkward staff is like having the best bullets in the world and only owning a rubber band slingshot to propel them at people.  Know how to engage them in conversation and impart your knowledge upon them without coming across as a pompous comic elitist snob.  Make them feel comfortable and they will listen to what you have to say.

End Part 2

One Response to “Owning a comic store and how to run it, Part 2”

  1. Philip Hanan

    So I assume you guys have homework each night as in reading all your new comics so you can tell people about them, right?