Column by Scott Thorne
Posted by Scott Thorne on July 20, 2020 @ 3:46 am CT
Rolling for Initiative – Five Distributors Doing the Work of One"), so I wanted to make mention of the newest notice stores received from DC Comics, once again on a Friday afternoon. This time, DC informed stores that starting in August, Final Order Cutoff, also known as FOC, will shift from Monday midnight to Sunday midnight and to Thursday, midnight of the week before for weekends with a Monday holiday. Why does this matter? Well, primarily it makes things easier on the new DC distributors and harder on retailers selling DC’s comics. Here is why.
First, a quick look at the ordering process as it currently works through Diamond. For comics, books, magazines, toys, games, t-shirts, in fact anything ordered through the monthly Diamond Previews catalog, stores collect pre-orders from their customers, add on what they want to order for shelf stock and put in an "Initial Order" two months before the expected date of receipt. Ergo, stores will generally expect items ordered on this month’s Initial order, due July 23, to arrive during the month of September. Generally, comics and magazines and other items require about a two month lead time for production; however, some years ago, Diamond and some of the larger publishers realized they could allow adjustments to orders on some items closer to the on-sale date, thus letting stores increase or decrease orders based on perceived changes in demand, allowing potential increased sales on a popular book or cutting orders on one that had seen flagging sales, reducing the potential for a glut of unsold books to build up on retailer shelves tying up capital that could be invested in other product. Thus, Final Order Cutoff dates were born. Participating publishers, such as Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Dark Horse Comics, IDW Publishing, BOOM! Studios, Dynamite Entertainment and Image Comics (and the list keeps getting longer) agree to allow retailers to adjust their initial orders on comics and graphic novels up or down three weeks before the on-sale date. Since most comics release monthly, this gives stores a week to evaluate sales on a particular title (a rule of thumb I have heard is that 75% of sales on a comic take place within three days of release) and, since weekends tend to be big retail sales days overall, a Monday FOC allows stores to adjust orders based on weekend sales and for publishers to get out any last minute information about a title that they think retailers could use when ordering, such as cover artists, creator changes, incentives, etc.
DC and its distributors moving this back a day gives stores less time and information with which to adjust their preorders, especially as Sunday is often both a relatively busy sales day and a day when those who do the ordering would normally take off or focus on other aspects of store management. Moving FOC back to Thursday night on Monday holiday weekends means that stores now have to put in pre-orders not only without data from weekend sales, but also without information from holiday sales and have to complete FOC twice, instead of all at once as the Monday FOC would allow. For example, this year Labor Day falls on Monday, Sept. 7. Diamond FOC orders are due by midnight on the 7th. Under the new policy for DC distributors, FOC orders would normally come due midnight September 6th, but also under the new policy, DC FOC orders will be due midnight Sept. 3, four days earlier. Stores will now have to pull together sales data for DC on one day and data for all other publishers on another day. While this certainly makes it easier on DC and its distributors and should, hopefully, have no effect on customers, it does create more work for stores.
I had planned to talk about the first convention the store has attended since the epidemic started but the above ran a bit long so will save Cape Comic Con for next week. Feel free to email comments about the change in FOC or live conventions to firstname.lastname@example.org and indicate if you are quotable or not.
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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