Michael Costello of Downtown Comics in Indianapolis,
I agree with Mr. Phillips' take on the situation, but not necessarily with his negative outcome. My local big box stores were all at approximately $12.99, bringing up the first irony of it costing me less to wait until the Tuesday release and 'buy my Diamond order' from Wal-Mart, Best Buy, or the like for $1 less a unit, not only stripping them of supply but saving me money. The second irony is that second-hand talk with some customers has also brought up that the DVDs offered by at least two different venues had exclusive card inserts (from the Vs. game I think) while the Direct market had... NOTHING. So let's go beyond the rant and truly try to determine whose 'fault' this is and what we may be able to do about it.
First we have Diamond. What exactly is their goal? To sell us more stuff. I get calls all the time from Diamond about new cards, toys, games, etc. They are, of course, looking at my buying patterns and trying to 'upsell' me. No problem. I am not sure how much they make on their video category. They have somewhere between 3,000 -- 5,000 accounts, how many order videos from them? We don't; I had a brief foray into Japanese anime in the late 90's but soon got out of it due to the pricing wars and the influx of online sellers. So my video purchases range from a special order here and there and some CD-ROM encyclopedias. My last great video purchase was the Spawn cartoon on DVD back in the mid nineties (before pricing wars and the Internet). So how many calls from Diamond did I get regarding the Ultimate Avengers DVD? None. How big was the coverage of the release of this DVD in the catalog? Not very, just a normal boxed ad, no fanfare, no article in the front of the catalog, no ordering incentives, nothing.
Well personally I was scared of the whole project, so I ordered very conservatively and it came to 40 copies (I have 4 locations). This could be upwards of triple what I normally spend in a year on videos from Diamond.
We put a blurb on our Website letting people know we would have it and 'begged' our customers to buy it from us. We checked the local stores that we had contacts in to try to find out what kind of push they were giving this thing. Not much. From what we found out, the few stores (Best Buy,
So the day came. Our South side store got the most copies (18) and the manager was extremely nervous about the pricing. So much so we got into an argument about what price to charge. He wanted to immediately offer it at $14.99; I basically came back with, 'Then what's the point?' I wanted an initial push at suggested retail ($19.99) and then depending on the sales, discount as appropriate. I was pretty sure we could sell what we had without a problem; people would see it and buy it. I believe the average customer is not as price savvy as Phillips thinks. The most vocal and knowledgeable of his customer base is, but in our case I would put that at most 20%-30% of our customers. The rest probably have seen something about it (on TV or on the back of the comics) but will not know when it comes out, who's selling it and for how much. Well my manager was so nervous he wasn't going to sell it (and he green-lighted his order), so I told him to do whatever he thought was best.
The end result? My South side store sold all 18 on Wednesday for $14.99 (gross profit $18); my other 3 stores sold out by Friday of the other 22 at $19.99 (gross profit approx $132). In defense of my South side guy, he approached the end result as good customer loyalty as they were bought mostly by regulars, and I agreed with him. But I let him know that if he wants to promote that before release, great, but I thought he knee-jerked his response out of fear.
So what can we take from all this and use next time?
- Get Diamond out there working for us as a legitimate venue for this type of product, which means using its buying power to increase our buying power.
- Understanding that it's not just the best price that will make the sale. We had our DVD on the front counter for every customer to see. Who knows where it was placed at any of the Big Box stores, and the online vendors already have the business of the fanatics of the movie buying public so why worry.
- The big box stores will probably not order enough for the demand this type of good product can generate from our customer base. If we are patient we are bound to get sales.
- We have to let the customers know that even though we don't normally carry this kind of product, it is special enough to warrant it. I truly think customers like buying this kind of product from us even if it costs a few dollars more (with gas prices why make another trip?).
Thanks for your time and good luck on Ultimate Avengers II.
The opinions expressed in this Talk Back article are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.