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CE 2010: The Overview

Hey, it’s a New Year, which means it is time to look back at performance. I’ll place it under the Jump for those who Just Don’t Care…

At the Top-Level analysis, it wasn’t a terrific year. In fact, sales were down about 8% overall. Given the general state of the economy, and San Francisco Unemployment in general, and really, the average slate of comics being released and how people are reacting to them, I don’t absolutely hate this result. There were bits of the year I thought the overall number could be down by 13-15%! So, especially the fact that the 4th quarter flew back up in sales makes me feel like things are adequate.

I’m certainly doing a number of things to reduce expenses — ONOMATOPOEIA is going to 8 pages (from 12) a month, and we’ve trimmed back our health insurance a bit (my own damn fault, I hadn’t actually realized we still had maternity coverage, and we’re not going to have any more kids at our age…) and so on, so profit is going to be less of an issue in 2011.

The real problem is the collapsing market for new periodical comics — this year we’re 55% books/41% comics, which is at a historical low for comics — and without that weekly driver to draw people through the door, it makes it harder to sell books to people….

I expect this year that we’re going to lose at least 2 Bay Area stores, maybe as many as five or six, and we’ll see whether those customers scatter to the winds, or shore up the remaining stores in SF (in 1989 when I opened, there were 26 comic shops in SF proper, now we’re at about a dozen), and, of course, we have a few stores locally that “don’t play by the rules” (ie, paying employees in comics, rather than money; not paying proper taxes, and so on) which always makes competition harder… but we’ll see what happens.

Another big change this year is the HUGE shift to credit cards — 61% of sales is in cards, which eats up a few percentage points of sales in fees and such. The worst one this year was that someone actually tried to charge 27 cents for a “Quarter comic” (plus tax). *sigh*

I’ll go into greater detail in the next two posts, but the overall Top 20 items (regardless of category) in quantity looks like this:

1    Quarter Book – Single
2    BORG – Bag & Board Combo
3    Sale Book
4    Dollar Book
5    Back Issue
6    SCOTT PILGRIM GN VOL 06 FINEST HOUR
7    SIEGE #1 (OF 4)
8    COMIC BAGS 100 CT – MODERN AGE
9    COMIC BOARDS 100 CT – MODERN AGE
10    BATMAN AND ROBIN #7
11    BATMAN AND ROBIN #10
BATMAN RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE #1 (OF 6)
13    BATMAN AND ROBIN #8
BATMAN AND ROBIN #9
15    BATMAN AND ROBIN #11
16    BATMAN AND ROBIN #12
17    BATMAN AND ROBIN #16
18    BATMAN #700
BATMAN AND ROBIN #13
20    BATMAN RETURN OF BRUCE WAYNE #2 OF(6)
COMIC BOX – SHORT
JOE THE BARBARIAN #1 (OF 8)

So, yeah, people seem to like both cheap comics,  supplies, as well as Grant Morrison — but they also clearly likely GM’s BATMAN less as the year wore on…

Note that there’s only one single TP/GN in the Top 20, that should make it fairly clear how important the periodical comic is to building traffic… especially when you consider that SP v6 is more akin to an “annual periodical” than it is a book, per se.

(and “Long Box” came in at tied-for-#23, never realized how much we actually sold there…)

One thing to consider is that all of the store-specific/generic items (quarter books, supplies, etc.) are for sale 12 months of the year, while most of the comics here are only on sale for 6-8 months, max. B&R #7 was on my racks from January to September, so, perhaps, the comparisons aren’t that fair… but, then, SP v6 only went on sale in July (but 80% of those sales were in the first week.)

“Sale book” is something put on clearance.

Another observation: “BORGS”, in sum, sold less than 4% of our combined sales of periodicals, so the “collector impulse” is significantly less than a raw look at these sales might suggest.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to 2011!

Any thoughts from you?

-B

6 Responses to “ CE 2010: The Overview ”

  1. A question about credit card fees (which I could probably look up, but I’m lazy)…

    Is the fee charged to retailers a straight percentage of the total sale? Or does it have a minimum value and a maximum value?

  2. There’s a percentage fee, then there is usually a per-transaction fee as well. The charges also vary between credit and debit cards.

    It’s impossible, as a retailer, to predict exactly what those percentage fees will be, because they vary by “type” of card, and there’s no way for the retailer to tell by looking at a card what “type” it is.

    By this I mean: you know those rewards programs that some cards have (free air-miles or whatever else?) … well who do you think pays for that? Yup, the retailer, in higher percentages.

    Credit card regulations (I mean, what you agree to from Visa/AMEX/MC/Discover) say that you have to take all cards from a provider if you take cards at all — so, even if there was a way to figure out, prior to a sale, what the percentages were, you’re not allowed to say “Oh, no, I don’t take *that* reward card”

    -B

  3. I can’t believe there are people who get paid in comics.

  4. So (as I’m really curious) — as a retailer — do you offer a discount (1-2%?) if users pay in cash?

    I believe my LCS tried something similar a number of years back (or maybe it was a reverse in that the normal discount wasn’t as high if you paid with a credit card), but if they are still doing that, they aren’t publicizing it. (My guess is it wasn’t popular, so they scrapped it)

    Some (but not most) Gas Stations around here do this — but margins for gas sales are extremely low — I’m curious if that has made it to other companies.

  5. I find this kind of post fascinating.

  6. […] read Brian Hibbs posts at Comix Experience about 2010 and wanted to compare my numbers.  I really can’t do a fair comparison across all […]

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