We talked to Joe Field, the Concord, California retailer who came up with the idea for an industry-wide promotional comic giveaway, about his reactions to the events of Free Comic Book Day last Saturday. We were curious about his reaction both to the event in Flying Colors, his store, and in the industry at large. His over-all reaction was simple, 'It was a happy day.'
Ironically for the man who served as a news source for reporters from around the country, Field said he had 'a hell of a time' getting local press to pick up the FCBD story. Despite sending out numerous press releases, the event at Flying Colors ended up with only a brief mention in the Contra Costa Times weekend guide, and some coverage from a radio station that picked up the notice from the listing. Although both had some facts wrong, they helped get the word out.
Field said that Diamond rep Dave Hawksworth, who was at his store for the event, estimated a line of around 150-170 people when the giveaway began. By the end of the day, between 800-900 people had been through the store, which met Field's expectations. The sales the freebie-seekers generated were a pleasant surprise, though. Field said they 'far exceeded expectations,' and were 2-1/2 times the sales on a 'decent' Saturday. 'I wasn't looking at Saturday as a day to make money, as much as a day to make friends and get some new customers,' Field said. 'We did that, but also had a line at the register all day long.' Asked if he would do anything different, he mused that a costumed Spider-Man might have brought in another 500-600 people, but said over-all, 'Everything went just fine.'
The response of the industry was better than expected for Field. 'It was really something of an epiphany,' he said, 'to see what happens when everyone in this business is on the same page on the same day working toward a common goal.' He was generous with his praise for the cooperation at all levels of the industry. 'There hasn't been enough credit for Diamond's team. Top to bottom, they put in overtime to make this thing fly. I don't think enough credit has been given to what the publishers brought to the table. Or credit to individual retailers stepping up and doing everything they could to make it work.'
Field urged the industry to try to build on what was accomplished, agreeing with ICv2 that the SCI FI Channel cross promotion (see 'SCI FI Channel To Do FCBD Cross-Promotion') represents the kind of deals that could build the event far beyond its current size. Field also urged a single industry-wide event in future years. 'I would like to see it happen again,' he said. 'But I want to caution other retailers that think they can do it on their own. It's really critical to keep the branding of FCBD as pure as possible, and reserve it for industry-wide events....When I originally proposed an industry-wide open house five years ago it was an unfocused idea. Putting the boundaries on it made it work, and I don't want to lose that.'