Column by Scott Thorne
Posted by Scott Thorne on November 21, 2016 @ 3:45 am CT
We were one of over 550 stores that participated in Local Comic Shop Day on November 19th this year with mixed success. If you have not heard of the event, don’t be too surprised as many of my customers had not either, despite significant amount of advertising on our part through both traditional and social media.
Local Comic Shop Day is an event started last year by the ComicPRO organization, patterned after Local Record Store Day, which itself drew upon Free Comic Book Day for inspiration. During Local Record Store Day, local record stores make available limited edition and special pressings of assorted albums by both large acts and independent performers and make them available for purchase to their more devoted customers. Similarly, Local Comic Shop Day, unlike Free Comic Book Day and Halloween ComicFest, appeals more to the hard core comic fan and collector with variant covers of assorted books, limited edition hardcover graphic novels and specialty items such as a Bombshell Killer Frost statue and a statue of the Lying Cat from Image Comics’ Saga series.
This got me thinking about a similar event for game stores. The FLGS already has two national events Free RPG Day and International TableTop Day, although if a store does not carry role-playing games, Free RPG Day, sponsored by Impressions Advertising and Marketing, probably doesn’t do much for them and other venues than game stores are able to host Geek & Sundry’s International TableTop Day events, lessening the ability of the event to drive customers into game stores. Though boardgames do not have the mass awareness and low cost that comic books do ($2.99 to $3.99 for most comic books versus $25 5o $40 for a boardgame), over the past few years tabletop board and card games have garnered greater awareness in the public mind. National events like Free Comic Book Day and Halloween ComicFest draw thousands of people into stores and, while reports on International TableTop Day are mixed, Free RPG Day does well enough on an annual basis that Impressions sells out of the limited number of kits they make available. There are a number of problems with putting on such an event, with two springing to mind immediately:
1. Distribution -- One of the benefits (and banes) of the comic industry is Diamond Comic Distribution. Since Diamond distributes all of the major comic lines, any comic shop wanting to do serious comic sales has to have a Diamond account. Since Diamond sponsors Free Comic Book Day and Halloween ComicFest, and handles shipping for Local Comic Shop Day, it is comparatively easy for stores to order products for each event and for Diamond to ship them out. Distribution in the gaming industry is much more fragmented with between 5-6 major distributors (depending on whom you talk to) and another 3-6 small distributors, none of which can lay claim to all the accounts as Diamond can.
2. Focus -- The focus of Local Comic Shop Day is on the dedicated comic book fan. The casual fan, that comes out for FCBD and HCF, has little interest in the variants and specialty books offered during LCSD. Similarly, most boardgame players are casual, with only a few (excluding Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokemon and other collectable games) interested in collectable versions of a game. We do deal in collectable board and RPGs and most customers are interested in RPG modules from the 1980s and wargames from the 1970s and 1980s. So the question becomes, what do you offer customers to bring them in on a Local Game Store Day?
Any ideas? I am interested in hearing what you think of the idea. Workable or something that should be relegated to the back corners of my mind?
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.
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