Tell us a little about your store--number of square feet, product categories carried, type of location, number of years in business, type of customer base.
We have two stores in Salt Lake City. The first store opened in April 1987 in the Cottonwood Mall. It is 1,200 square feet and filled with thousands of comic books and graphic novels from every comic genre. Our newest store opened February 8th, 2003 inside the new $65 million state-of-the-art Salt Lake Library Square building. Opening day brought out over 20,000 visitors. We are currently building our permanent location at Library Square and the permanent store will be approximately the same size as our mall store. We have the same goals of stocking as wide a selection of great comics and graphic novels currently available.
Our customer base is varied: from 3-year-olds to 63-year-olds and up and a great mix of men, women, girls and boys all shop here. Some are regular weekly or monthly readers and some are casual every once in a while comic book readers.
How does your store interact with your community in a way that promotes a positive image of comics?
We actively promote child advocacy and sponsor a University of Utah student UNBROKEN TRUST group. We also provide comics and candy at club events for students to give to anyone interested in their work. We also work with local educators on a regular basis by providing them free comics for class room use. We promote literacy with FCBD and Secret Origin of Good Readers. For example: Night Flight Comics provided 26 local libraries with FCBD Batman Adventures and Batman Adventures posters for May 3rd, 2003. It generated quite a lot of positive publicity for the libraries and for Night Flight by encouraging young readers to pick up a free comic.
What institutions (schools, libraries, churches, police, charities) do you interact with to accomplish this? Any specific examples and suggestions for other retailers would be useful.
All of them, but mostly educators and librarians. However our work with local groups that service at-risk youth as well as youth detention centers has been difficult to measure in comparison to work with educators and librarians where feedback and immediate results are far easier to see.
How do you manage material for 'mature' readers in your store?
We don't sell it to anyone who isn't old enough to purchase it. However, most 'mature' titles--for example the Vertigo--are not attractive in younger readers and so it isn't a problem.
Specifically, do you display material for different ages separately?
Sometimes, yes. Depends on the title.
Do your clerks compare the material to the purchaser at the checkout?
Do you regulate browsing of mature materials by younger readers?
Absolutely. We try to greet everyone who enters the store whenever possible and interact with everyone to help them locate what they are interested in. We open a dialogue to steer them to new titles they might want to try and to inform them of issues they might otherwise never know about.
When parents come in with younger children, how do you interact with the parents to create a positive image of comics?
Again, we interact with everyone whenever possible and actively suggest titles that are age appropriate for younger readers.
Do you carry adult (x-rated) comics? And if so, same questions as we asked about 'mature' products in #4 above.
Not really, but anything we consider a 'problem waiting to happen' stays behind the counter for a sales clerk to hand to an adult customer upon request--after we check valid I.D.
Have you ever had problems in your store with parents or others regarding the content of what you sell, how did you handle it, and what was the outcome?
Sure, you can't please everyone. Three weeks ago, we had a customer complain about the 'pornography' we were stocking within the reach of children. I asked her to please point the porn out and I was promptly pointed to Sojourn #22 and Thunderbolts #78. I walked through the contents, but the customer still insisted these titles were 'too suggestive' to be out in the public eye. [Guess you heard about how Wal-Mart pulled Maxim and the like for similar complaints?] To this customer's credit, I showed them Looney Tunes, Justice League Adventures, Archie, and Cartoon Network titles and they purchased four. Obviously we can't limit our selection to these titles, but we can make sure we always have them in stock.
How did you handle the comics appropriate for different age levels for Free Comic Book Day?
Easy--like last year--DC Comics FCBD titles are the most accessible and all age-appropriate. DC also prints a matching FCBD poster. We order thousands of the DC books for schools, libraries and public display with enough DC Comics FCBD posters for everyone who is participating. In the stores, we lay out the full selection of what we've ordered and let customers pick only one to keep.