Paul Stock of Astro Books/Librairie Astro in Montreal, Canada writes in to discuss the topic of street dates for the Direct Market:

I've long been a proponent of the concept that it would be beneficial to receive the weekly comics shipments before the on-sale date.  Even a day or two would help--primarily by reducing (or even eliminating) the stress related to Wednesday receiving, unpacking, and routing.  From what I've gathered, in conversation with people ranging from other retailers, to no less an eminence than Paul Levitz, the primary impediment to early delivery lies in policing.  Nobody wants to be the bad guy, nobody wants to be labeled as the "street date cop."

Here's what I'm thinking.  From all I've learned, there should generally be no problem picking up at drop points on Tuesdays (or sometimes even Mondays--Diamond delivers to them on Monday).  I don't know how the logistics would work for UPS or other common carrier accounts, but even if it's only viable at drop points (or Diamond warehouses themselves), half a loaf is better than none...

Diamond can charge each retailer in the system a percentage of the invoice to pay for the service.  I'm figuring about 1/2% should work out OK.  That would cost me about $25 a week--not an insignificant amount, but bearable.  This charge could be variable, a percentage of each actual invoice, or it could be a standard weekly amount based on yearly averaging.  They already do averages when calculating the Marvel discounts, so figuring out the math shouldn't be too much of a hassle.

Policing early delivery should be quite simple.  Any retailer who opts for early receipt agrees to the possibility that his shelves might be checked by a third party "mystery shopper" outfit that has been furnished (by Diamond) with a list of books delivered, and their street dates.  The cost of this should be easily covered by the service fee.  Not every store has to be audited every week.  Verification could run on either rotation or random choice basis, with only 100 or so stores checked on any given week.  As part of the agreement for early receipt, retailers would accept that if they were found in violation, they would be subject to a penalty--say 1 or 2% (or even 5%) of the average invoice.  Not draconian enough to fatally harm anyone, but enough to sting, enough to make any retailer question whether breaking street date is really worthwhile.  And the "policeman" isn't Diamond or any specific publisher, but is a neutral investigative company accepted by the retailer when signing up,  so nobody in the industry can be said to be the "bad guy."

There are several winners here.  The retailer suffers a lot less stress, the drop point moves boxes off his floor faster (always a plus in warehousing), and Diamond stands to make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in fees--using our store as a benchmark, Diamond's revenue should be around $25,000 a week(!) I'm quite sure 100 mystery shoppers can be hired for substantially less than that.

Over time, I've floated this approach past several retailers, and while most instantly see the viability, the prime objection seems to be the idea of putting more money in Diamond's pocket.  I have no real problem with that.  It reminds me of GM back around 1940, when it was said "What's good for General Motors is good for America.  Well, the analogy isn't perfect, but I might say "What's good for Diamond, provided it doesn't hurt others, is good for the industry."

Anyways, I hope that DC's experiment with Blackest Night #6 means that there is a certain receptiveness to the very idea of early delivery, and that it has worked out successfully enough that publishers (and Diamond might want to explore the idea further.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of