Daniel McAbee of The Tangled Web in Spartanburg, South Carolina saw our article on the Barnes & Noble exclusive on trade paperback editions of Marvel Masterworks (see 'Barnes & Noble To Publish Masterworks TPBs') and the Marvel response (see 'Marvel on Barnes & Noble Masterworks Editions'), and went about dealing with it:
I have been reading the Talk Back responses to the recent B&N Masterworks exclusive TPB's and wanted to comment.
We in the Direct Market are somewhat spoiled by the segregation of our products from other venues and markets. The closed market of comics and comic distribution are both the benefit and bane of our lives. It secludes us from the bigger corporate competitors, but it insulates us from broader open market exposure.
When I first read the announcement of the B&N exclusive Masterworks, I was just as exasperated as most of the Talk Back comments have been. After thinking about this for a bit, (and reading Marvel's response) I set about the task of taking care of my customers needs by working out a purchase arrangement for these trades with my local B&N (3 blocks away). I will be able to provide these trades to my customers on the same release date as B&N, sell them at cover price, and still get a good discount on the product. Any other comic shop can do the same thing if their local B&N is willing. If that store isn't willing, try another one until you find an agreement, or just don't carry them. Direct market comic shops set the bar for their local comics buyers and if we do not carry a reprint product, it really isn't that much out of our pockets.
My local B&N refers more customers to me than any other single source that I know of. About 1/3 of their employees buy new comics and/or other merchandise from me, and yes, B&N has a BIG comic TPB section because of those same employees. I don't sell B&N employees many TPB's, but when they send me a customer, I make sure that my store is well stocked and friendly enough that the next time that customer is looking for something, they will try me first. I do miss the sales that they make on discounted TPB's, but I try to make the best of the situation.
This type of exclusive arrangement isn't unique to this product and is the type of situation that I expect to have to sometimes deal with to properly stock my store. I didn't carry Pokemon when it became popular but I set up a few new distributor accounts and got the product. Ditto with Yu-Gi-Oh! and it sells higher quantities than Pokemon ever did. Upper Deck Entertainment (Yu-Gi-Oh!) puts the mass market first and deals with Comic and Game distributors much further down the chain. I take the product I want at the price that I am willing to pay and I let all the other pass me by.
Mass Market stores will always be there to snatch up hot properties and make whatever they can off of them. There are many products that I treat exactly the same way (mentioned above) and when they are no longer profitable, I stop carrying them. Comics are my mainstay and I consider The Tangled Web to be a comic shop first and foremost, so I keep on trying to win over all those referrals and show them where they SHOULD be shopping.