Darin Erickson runs Amazing Comics & Cards, a 4000-square foot pop culture store in a Target-anchored shopping center in Long Beach, California. ICv2 talked with Darin about his merchandising strategies for movie products (for a category overview, see 'Navigating the Movie Merchandise Minefield').
Tell us a bit about your store. We are located in Long Beach. The store is approximately 4000 square feet. We specialize in new comics, old comics, trading cards, sports cards, non-sports cards, gaming cards, collectible card games. In addition we specialize in statues relating to comics, games, and anime -- we also do anime, we do DVDs, videos, and a lot of other items related to movies.
You do non-sports cards, does that include movie-based trading cards? Oh yeah, definitely. We carry all the latest ones in addition to the older ones too. We also make up sets of movie cards and we sell the insert cards separately as well. We try to make it a full service type situation.
How do you deal with the 'shrinkage' problem with cards? We keep them all in cases or behind the counters. I think you have to; they are so small and there are so many of them, it's hard to keep track of them all.
What about movie-related toys? We do the major releases from all the major toy companies, McFarlane, Hasbro--all the toys relating to cartoon shows, comics, movie tie-ins. The biggest problem with movie toys is the selling window has gotten a lot smaller. The popularity of any given movie toy doesn't last that long.
What about competition from the mass-market on movie toys? Do have a Wal-Mart in your vicinity? We have a Target in the same shopping center, so I try to pick the releases that they may not carry. I try to do what they are not doing.
Do you keep an eye on what they are doing? Well, I pretty much hear about what they are doing, so I don't have to go over there every day.
What about movie related apparel items? Yeah, we do t-shirts. We also do some of the nicer, button-down shirts, which are kind of in right now. It's kind of surprising but the upscale shirts have been doing well.
What do you think is the best movie opportunity for your store among this summer's movies? Obviously, Spider-Man I think is probably the best, since that's a new movie that's never been out before. Of course Star Wars is going to be good because people are used to that and are waiting for that. I think it's a great time for comic stores with all the attention this summer's releases will be focusing on the industry.
What are you bringing in terms of Spider-Man merchandise? We are bringing in the movie cards, movie posters, the toys and figures, and t-shirts. Obviously we will be bringing in the comics and a few other things.
Won't Target be carrying those Toy-Biz Spider-Man figures? I am sure they are, we already have them too. We are still able to move them. One thing that generally they don't do is keep a lot of stock on things, so once they sell out we are able to sell them.
What stands out in your memory as the best experience you ever had with movie merchandise? Well the best one was probably the original Batman film in 1989 because it was so unique. That was the first comic-related movie that was merchandised strongly. After that everything tapered off because it wasn't so original.
What's the worst hit you ever took with movie stuff? Probably one of the worst one was with the second series of figures for The Matrix, because the toys were released so long after the movie, and there was nothing to tie it to at the time. Those didn't go over very well.
For your store, what works better--a blockbuster like Spider-Man or a cult film like Ghost World? Oh, probably the blockbusters, because it attracts a wider audience than the cult films. The cult films appeal more to my existing audience, where the blockbuster might attract people who don't normally go into a comic store.
What's the best time to sell movie merchandise; when does it move the best for you? Probably just before the movie opens and just as the movie comes out -- that couple of weeks or maybe a month, it depends on the movie, how long it lasts at the box office, because if it's out of people's minds they are not likely to be searching for the merchandise. Something like Spider-Man, I think it will last longer because of the comics.