We interviewed Chris Powell, General Manager of the seven-store Lone Star Comics and Science Fiction chain in the Dallas-Fort Worth area on the second Free Comic Book Day.


How were sales at your store on Free Comic Book Day?

Sales were up over a typical Saturday in almost all stores, SIGNIFICANTLY up in the two flagship stores in Dallas and Arlington.  Those stores are larger and can make better use of the increased traffic.


To what do you attribute the change in sales?

The sales increase for FCBD comes in 2 forms: new business, and regular customers who are caught up in the 'festival' atmosphere.  We go all out with signs, sidewalk chalk, streamers, balloons, etc.  Just like during the holiday season, customers spend more when they're having a good time, and FCBD has that in spades!


Do you have any demographic data or anecdotal info? How did the mix change vs. last year?  How did you do with kids?

For both FCBDs, we have attracted a large number of families.  That's due in part to the press releases we sent to the media that stressed that aspect of comics collecting.  Having purchased huge quantities of Batman Adventures, Leave it to Chance, Archie, and Walt Disney Comics, we had even more to offer those families, though, which may lead to even more increased business.


How did you do with press coverage this year vs. last?

We saw a little more press coverage this year, and much more interest from movie theaters and other venues for cross-promotion.


Was press coverage easier or harder to get this year?

Since the people at the news outlets had at least HEARD of FCBD before, they were a little easier to talk to this year.  It resulted in higher QUALITY coverage, with a decent increase in QUANTITY.


What changes in execution did you make this year, and how do you evaluate the effectiveness of those changes?

This year, we committed ourselves to the assumption that we weren't going to get any media coverage and to do a huge campaign on our own to 'get the word out'.  We distributed over 70,000 flyers to libraries, schools, churches, retail outlets, movie theaters, shopping malls, etc. and sponsored the area premiere of X2. We passed out Ultimate X-Men, Archie, Leave it to Chance, and Walt Disney Comics to everyone leaving a number of theaters over the weekend, averaging 2000 attendees each.  We also did a promotion with other area theaters that got them to display flyers at their ticket window in exchange for offering a Metroplex-wide contest for a $500 X-Men prize pack.  To enter, the moviegoers brought their ticket stubs to the stores.  On the store level, we asked everyone how they heard about Free Comic Book Day.  I haven't had anyone collate that data yet, but our free TV and radio appearances still seem to be the greatest source of new customers besides our in-store promotions.


Do you have any changes in mind that you want to make next year?

We will be expanding our outreach to libraries and schools, and may try to schedule some charity events and/or blood drives.  We've had great success with blood drives in the past, but ran out of time to organize it this year.  I also want to work on a better 'press kit' with some pre-packaged video and still footage to send to the TV stations.


Do you have any feel for the scale of the external media attention and promotional activity this year vs. last, and of its effectiveness?

We had an article on the front page of the 'Life' section of the Fort Worth Star Telegram, appearances on three talk radio stations, and two television news appearances (NBC and the WB).  Many of the folks that came in said they'd heard of the event from one of these.


Can you attribute any changes in sales over the last 12 months to FCBD last year?

I have 2 stores in particular that have shown large increases in comic sales, much of which is due to new customers as opposed to increased purchasing from existing clientele.  The store managers can identify a few of these customers by name as having come to the store for the first time on FCBD in 2002.


Last but not least, I want to offer our sincere thanks to everyone that had any part in making Free Comic Book Day 2003 even better than the first.  We made thousands of kids and families happy, and have shown them how much fun they can have as a family when they start reading comics together.

Thanks again!