How to Open Your Own Comics Retail Store Part IX

This column marks my one year anniversary as a writer for CBG. In many regards, I am surprised that my column has lasted this long, as my original theme for the column was ostensibly to provide insights into the how's and why's of the pricing for back issue comics. As those of you who faithfully read the column are well aware, I've wandered far and wide from that original premise. So far, in fact, that the back issue market has seldom been mentioned at all. To my surprise, my musing in areas outside the back issue market have proven very popular with many of you, and you've taken the time to make your positive opinions of my columns known to both me personally, and to my editors at CBG. I thank all of you wholeheartedly for your kind support during this past year, and I promise that I will try and continue to provide you with some of the insights I have derived while working in the comics world for the past 32 years.

My past few columns have been on the topic of opening your own comics shop. Last week, I went into my evangelical mode, exhorting those of you who feel that you have the capabilities needed to make a comics shop succeed to join us in our battle to save the world of comics from oblivion. In that column, I specifically mentioned that one of the great rewards of being a comics dealer is that you get to work each day to provide others with material that will make them happy, and to (at least momentarily) divert them away from their daily cares and troubles.

While making others happy is certainly a wonderful altruistic goal, and while I personally find it to be very rewarding, I can understand where helping others can't be the only reason for you to go into business. Nor is saving the comics world, no matter how noble a cause that might be. Going into business involves a great deal of risk, and there have to be some potential financial rewards. In this case, I would advise anyone entering the comics retailing world to make themselves as Internet-savvy as possible before opening their doors. While I see the entire comics world as being quite threatened by the continuing decline in print runs that have plagued us since 1993, I also see enormous opportunities for new growth via the Internet.

To expand upon that thought, I already see this new growth in the comics world manifesting itself in the huge resurgence of back issue comics sales that the industry is already experiencing both through individual online retailers, and through public transaction sites, such as eBay. Three years ago, I was a member of CBG's "Punchline Live" panel at the San Diego Comic-Con International. The topic that year was "Comics and the Internet". One question that was asked of the members of the panel was what percentage of the overall comics business would be transacted through the Internet by 2004. I was the only member of the panel who believed that online sales would be more than 50% in five years. Well, it has been slightly over three years, and the best estimates of the experts are now that online sales of back issues may have already eclipsed the revenues of all new comics. If they're not ahead now, it seems inevitable that they will be soon.

While I certainly view that huge growth in online sales as a vindication of my (at the time) controversial projection, I believe this is just the beginning. Graphic art is particularly well suited for online sales, and it is astounding how many new fans we're discovering. In 1993, when Mile High's mail order catalog operation was at its peak, we had 30,000 customers on our mailing list. By 1997, we were down to about 8,500, and we were about to go broke. Since switching our entire mail order operation to the Internet we've grown to the extent that last month over 265,000 different people visited our website. Now that's growth!

To return to my original subject, I think that it is impossible to open a comics shop today without including Internet sales as a part of your business plan. At the very least, you should be using the public transaction sites as a means to dispose of stale inventory, so you can recycle that working capital into new products. The stores I see succeeding today are those who recognize that not only can the Internet help them generate revenues, but it is also the cheapest advertising mechanism available for bringing people to your location from all over the world. Frankly, I see the world populated with two kinds of comics shops right now: those who utilize the Internet aggressively, and those who are going out of business (even if they don't know it yet...).

Next week, I'll provide some thoughts on how the Internet both helps, and impedes, the sale of new comics.

Please send your e-mails to chuck@milehighcomics.com, and your letters to:

Mile High Comics, Inc.
Attn: Chuck Rozanski
2151 W. 56th Ave.
Denver, CO 80221



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