Diamond Comic Distributors is putting the final touches on its ComicSuite add-on for Microsoft's Retail Management System POS (point of sale) system.  RMS is one of the most widely used POS systems, and ComicSuite is a custom-designed package of features to tailor that system for comic retailers.  As part of the new program, Diamond will offer and support not only ComicSuite, but also the full RMS software package and hardware packages on which to run the software as a Microsoft Certified Partner.


ComicSuite will offer both tools to ease communication with Diamond and software to perform common functions in comic stores.  Communication tools will assist retailers in importing items (including Diamond product codes) into the system, importing invoice data into inventory, receiving of all types of orders, and sending shortage/damage reports to Diamond.  The software also supports creating initial, Preview Plus, special, and final order cut-off orders.  It will generate cycle sheet and receiving reports.  In-store subscription services will be supported. 


The ComicSuite add-on is being tested by seven retailers chosen as a beta group.  The system will be rolled out to Diamond customers between now and the end of the year.  Diamond VP Sales and Marketing Roger Fletcher told ICv2 that Diamond hoped that with the system, its customers would 'do business more easily, efficiently, and profitably.'


According to Fletcher, only about 10% of Diamond's customers currently use point of sale systems (about 25% of stores with a POS system use RMS).  That is a serious barrier to success in a business that is increasingly competitive with large chain specialty retailers.  In fact, it may be one reason why graphic novel sales in bookstores have been growing much more rapidly than graphic novel sales in comic stores, to the point where bookstores sold twice as many graphic novels as comic stores in 2006 (based on ICv2 research, reported in the ICv2 White Paper at the ICv2 Graphic Novel Conference in February, see 'Graphic Novels Outsell Comics'). 


Comic stores without POS systems find it difficult to keep key graphic novel titles in stock, order new titles accurately, or get off losers on a timely basis, while book chain software supports efficient execution of all of those functions.  Coupled with efficient distribution that gets new titles to stores quickly, returnability, and publisher promotional support for special displays, book chain POS systems provide an almost insurmountable competitive advantage on graphic novels vs. comic stores without such systems.  And as the importance of the book channel to comic publishers grows, more product is developed with that channel in mind, it gets more support, and the channel shift continues and accelerates. 


Some have compared Diamond's development of ComicSuite and offering of the Microsoft Retail Management System to its customers to the cash register program for comic stores that Carol Kalish developed for Marvel in the 80s.  It's similar in the sense that a stone-tipped spear is similar to an ICBM, but the improvements in profitability and customer service that a customized POS can offer comic stores are far beyond the difference between a cash box and a register. 


So there are numerous good reasons for comic stores to adopt a POS system.  We are hopeful that the improved availability of customized features through ComicSuite, and sales and support of the POS system by Diamond, the key vendor of goods for the channel, will encourage a majority of retailers not currently using such systems to adopt them. 


It's worth noting that Diamond's ComicSuite is not the first or only customized software available to comic retailers.  Mel Thompson's ComicTrac, Moby from Bitter End Systems (developed originally for Star Clipper in the St. Louis area), and the free software offered by Hijinx all include features specifically for comic stores.    But one thing all of the sources of software for the comic trade would agree on is that it's almost impossible for a retailer without a POS system to be as successful as a retailer with one.