Gail Burt of Metropolis Comics in Downey, California saw the recent comments on ordering strategies from Rich Biedrzycki of Dreamland and L. Bowman of the Gamers Den (see 'Rich Biedrzycki of Dreamland Comics on IQ Tests' and 'L. 'Bo' Bowman of the Gamer's Den on Namor') and does do the happy dance when a comic sells out:
In his remarks, Rich says he can't understand doing a happy dance when selling out of an issue of comics. I can.
There are certain issues that I, too, scramble to reorder -- tried and true books that I know will sell later if they don't sell now. But untried properties like Namor, (not the character, just this present incarnation of the book) are just not some of them. Look, having gotten burned on The Brotherhood, which was widely talked about, but which tanked the second it was put on the shelves, and having ordered pretty aggressively on #'s 1, 2 and 3, I was very unhappy with the quantity I had left. I would rather sell out of a title than store 15 unsold copies of a book everyone knows didn't sell when it was released, and frankly will NEVER sell now, and I don't think that makes me shortsighted, or any of the other retailers out there who feel the same way. Do I mind going to back issues with 15 extra copies of ANY issue of Superman, Amazing Spider-Man, Batman, X-Men, just to name a few? Hell no -- I don't mind going to back issues with 50 or 100 extra of those, because I know that over the years, I will sell them all. All I care about is selling enough when they're on the rack to recoup my cost and make a modest profit, so my goal is to sell at least half of what I order. But on a title like The Brotherhood, or even, sad to say, Spider-Man/Black Cat, I am not happy with going back to the bins with a bunch of unsold stock -- there's just not a way to know for sure that you'll ever really be able to even recoup your cost on them. I don't know if I would order only ONE copy of Namor for the shelf; I'd probably like to have 10 for the shelf, because Namor is a recognizable character, has a following, and even if the book itself doesn't last a long time, eventually, I believe it will sell. But I would definitely NOT like to have even as many as 10 or 15 unsold copies left 30 days after the release date, because it's just too many to have to store and too uncertain as to how long I'd be doing that. That's not dumb, it's just good sense -- and as you say, there are ways to re-stock. Many of the smaller distributors will still have copies after Diamond has sold out, and other local dealers will, too. I've forged friendships with many other local dealers, and have many avenues to pursue when trying to obtain some more copies for back stock on these things.
But certainly, I feel as most other retailers do: our business is to sell as many comics as possible and store as few as we can help. That means walking a very fine line between ordering strongly enough to meet the demand, yet conservatively enough to protect ourselves from a disastrous, unproven title that becomes a .50 cent book two weeks after the release date. The truth is, when you talk about each title singly, losing $5 on a title is a drop in the bucket and it makes sense to have a few on hand, just in case, for later. But it's also equally true that you talk about 40 to 75 titles each month from each publisher, and now you're talking about a load of money that's tied up in inventory, and that's no good. Marvel is flooding the market right now with a lot of very marginal-looking product, and it's a big departure from a couple of years ago when they offered fewer titles of greater quality. We do have to be concerned with the bottom line right up front, because the more of these titles that don't fly, the more of them we have to store if we aren't ordering careful. I agree strongly with Rich when he remarks that Bill Jemas' statements have never influenced his purchasing decisions - mine either. The thing is, every store is different, and the culture of every store demands different strategies. If Bo Bowman's store culture is not as friendly to back issue stock as Rich's store's, then Bo's done the right thing in ordering only one shelf copy of Namor. It doesn't really screw his customers, because I'm assuming Bo does what many of us do, in offering his regular customers the opportunity to let him know they will want a copy. We offer a membership, which gives our members a free copy of Previews each month and a reserve box, in which we hold the items they tell us they will want. Those who are really interested have the opportunity to tell us ahead of time the things they are really going to want. Also, we try to talk to all our customers, ask if they've seen the new Previews, ask what they think looks interesting. I think when we do all these things, if we still come up with the idea that we only want one copy of something for the shelf, that's not a disservice to our customers -- it's the only way we really have of protecting ourselves in an environment where we may not return unsold stock. When I go to back-stock with an issue of a comic - any comic - I want to be reasonably certain I'm at least going to get cover price for it. Back issues are an investment in the future of my store, and I want to make sure the investment is a wise one by being as sure as I can be that the title, character, etc. will entice a buyer at some point in the not-too-distant future.