Retailer Tips and Tricks on Successfully Running a Shop Long Term

The CBLDF and Dark Horse Comics are publishing a “selling comics” book coming soon. As a beginning retailer I’m interested in buying it , to learn about things that frankly I haven’t seen or know yet. When I saw it and ordered it I thought of you Willie, and all the experience and knowledge that you might / could impart upon us.

So in the traditional Price is Right car game I ask :
Oooo great Uncle_Willie , what great advice do you have to give ?

But in all seriousness, knowing ur customers and your market, how do you judge which books to buy and which do you generally pass on ?

Do you get caught up in the ratio varient craze?
Do you over order or under order comics?

I’m sure I will have more questions once we start the conversation.

Btw, while I was at SDCC I found that older retailers aren’t very forthcoming with information or wanting to talk to newer people. I’m wondering if that was just those that felt entitled or if I just happened to find only the stubborn ones.

First, let me say I’m honored and humbled to have been selected … :vulcan_salute:

If the old brain remembers correctly, I think there has been a book or two about it in the past …

I’m very fortunate to have a relatively large Pull & Hold base, which tends to keep things stable over time, so I am less prone to the fluctuations of the Market, that’s just something that takes time to build … but it should be the eventual foundation of any shop, AFAIC …

I also started the business back when Newsstand distribution was common, which allowed books to be stripped and returned for credit, so that helped a lot in the early years …

During the 1990’s, I did get caught up in that era’s form of the Variant Craze … and, suffered accordingly, as most Retailers did, when the market dropped out … this has caused me to be quite conservative in todays Market as it relates to Variants and ordering minimums with which to qualify … I do the math … if, let’s say, I have to order 50 of a certain book in order to get 1 Variant … say, 50 x 2.00 at my discount, $100.00 total … and I have 25 subscribers for that book, that leaves me with 25 extra copies, 25 x 4.00 == $100 … so, technically, I’ve broken even and have 25 extra copies and the 1 variant … say I have one customer that’s already offered me $50 for the variant, in advance, for a NM+ example …

if I’m lucky enough to get the variant in high grade, which is always a dice role, I’m now at $150.00 … in order to stay in business, pay myself, pay all associated costs (I have no Rent as I own my own Building free and clear) … I need to double my money, so I’m $50 bucks short … I need to sell another 12 copies or so of that book to reach the goal … that requires Walk In’s that want it …

The only material I really pedal on eBay is quality Silver & Gold / Obscure Books, etc …

Stay Tuned, I will periodically add to the Thread as I have time too … :vulcan_salute:


Thanks to Willie for the wisdom, I’m always ready to learn at the feet of the masters of knowledge when it comes to comics and selling or spec.

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so then on average, you know XX amount of people will come in on new comic day. And knowing your here reading the forums on whta could potentialy be hot, do you increase or decrease your orders based on judgemnt calls from reading sites like this?

From past experience, do you have an idea of " Lurkers" in your community that come searching for those hot books? and order accordingly ? or do you have a formula you use religiously in ordering comics?

I should say Flippers, Not Lurkers … makes them sound like deviants lol

In General, spec wise, I’m a long term holder … I can’t move swiftly enough in todays Internet market, and, I really don’t want to … it’s time consuming, if I list an item, I require myself to use actual photos of the book outside of a board/bag, I place a numeric grade on it which requires examination, if I can’t make at least a $20 dollar bill net/net profit, it’s not worth my time … and, I give my customers a 60 day window with which to purchase any new material off the racks at cover … although I will limit a Hot book to one each after being cleaned out on various occasions by one customer buying all …

So, unless a book heats up 60 days later, I generally have sold out, and, that’s the goal … but, some books do get heat later on, so I’m not immune to a mark up at that point …

As far as “Those folks you only see when they are looking for the Hot Book of the Week” … their money is as good as anyone’s … although I do generally make a snide comment like “Good Luck with eBay” or some such … just so they know I know, I can afford to say it and I like to make them feel a bit uncomfortable … because, generally, I don’t care if they ever come back … harsh, yes, I admit it …

FCBD (where the books are not really Free for the Retailer) … is the day you see people once a year … just for that … I’m on the fence for next year, since I don’t think I’m gaining anything much long term anymore …

Its interesting to hear you say that as literally just yesterday i placed my orders for the Halloween books. For me these wont be given out free, they will be sold in bundles on ebay. But still, i hear alot that this promotion dosnt do anything to attract new customers.

Once my Diamond order is committed, the only changes that I will make is if a Pull and Hold calls and wants something … I’ve been a Diamond customer since 1991, Capital City before that … I know what I can sell … and, I won’t get sucked into the Frenzy over anything … the idea is Slow and Steady, and, as I mentioned earlier, Profit Margin … I don’t need tons of books collecting dust just because somebody mentioned something about this or that … with cover prices like they are these days, it’s just too easy to make a mistake … I gave up trying to be Bill Gates many years ago … did I mention Profit Margin … ?? Unsold books == zero profit == loss … I’m not in business to loose money, my goal is to stay in Business …

I have no Crystal Ball … :vulcan_salute:

I dont think any of us are in the business to lose money ** Cough **

But my question still stands. How do you know what to buy and what not to buy. At some point you need to “Speculate” on what your customers and potential customers are wanting to buy. Yes your pull and hold customers are going to tell you, but even they miss things from time to time.

Well, first, I give all Pull & Holds a free copy of Previews and expect them to bring in new order material lists at least a week before my order Due Date … I enter that info into a spreadsheet that already includes orders / Pull and Holds from the past 12 months … this allows me to look for trends, books that are declining, books that are increasing as well as assess the interest in new #1’s …

My Point of Sale system allows me to know quickly what stock level there is on books from the last 12 months … and compare that with what initial orders were …

I study Previews pretty completely on a monthly basis, as well as the DC and Marvel supplements …

In the end, there simply is no real way to know 2 months out into the future, what’s the spot on number to order of anything … you take the data you have and you try and interpret that with what the past 12 months have proven … and, you use the knowledge you have of your customer base as the core …

If a book looks like something a Pull and Hold might want, I’ll order it and place it in their box with a post it note as “Optional but Recommended” … they can take it or leave it … they generally take it … if a customer subscribes to “Star Wars” and “Dr Aphra”, it’s a good bet a new “Star Wars” mini or series will be of interest … that’s how you beef up Pull and Hold totals … you go ahead and get the books they may have missed … it works 90% of the time … young woman subscribes to “TMNT” … and “Batman/TMNT” is a new mini … I’ll order it if she missed it and put it in the box …

I maintain an extensive list on PC of Pull and Holds from the last 15 years … as well as want lists … if a guy has a want list of “Conan” books, Marvel re-boots “Conan”, I text or call them and tell them … they come in, pay the deposit, ka-ching …

I could write a book … gotta get back to work, will check in as I have time … :vulcan_salute:

Mike … just a thought … you might nicely ask Poyo to move this Thread to the General Forum as the Lounge is a bit limiting … also, changing the Thread title to something like ::

Retailer Tips and Tricks on Successfully Running a Shop Long Term

Just a thought … who knows … ?? There may be others out there contemplating …

I don’t think you ran into anything out of the Norm … remember, most all these guys use on-line selling venues as well as possibly having a B&M and doing Cons … so, they can feel a bit threatened by new folks entering the Market as they see it as competition … even though you’re not just down the block …

Personally, I don’t have a problem with a bit of mentoring …

First and foremost, it’s a Business and has to be treated as such … leave the Fan personality at the Door … don’t get into the “Order what You Like” ways … look for opportunities to expand the Market you’re in … get in with the Local Library and host a monthly Geek Fest … be willing to give a talk at a local college / school periodically, they are always willing to work with folks …

It appears that they took your suggestion and moved and changed the title. Cudos !

Yes, I did get alittle fan boy when I meet Scott Snyder and other talent. Being s beginner and finally being able to meet these people was a surreal experience. But I was there to learn and absorb all I could so after meeting them it was down to business.

I found that people younger than me ( I’m 46) we’re more inclined to talk shop then those who were older. I meet this nice young couple who owned 2 shops in Cali and we talked about everything. Yet people older then me give me a side glance and just walked away.

What do you think has been your toughest challenge? (Besides the 90’s I think we all suffered enough from that)

Basically, don’t fall in love with the product you’re suppose to sell.

There is a saying for that; ‘dont get high on your own supply’. :rofl:
I have appreciated the wisdom you have so generously bestowed upon us, @Uncle_Willie. Thank you for the insight.

I found that people younger than me ( I’m 46) we’re more inclined to talk shop then those who were older. I meet this nice young couple who owned 2 shops in Cali and we talked about everything. Yet people older then me give me a side glance and just walked away.

There are maybe 1,800 to 2,000 different answers to all of the questions you can ask based on the 1,800 to 2,000 different shops around you could ask and all of them are based on what works for them and may not be applicable to your situation.

What is your business goals and have you written a Mission Statement?
Ours is very simple. Having books on hand to be acquired for readers when they show up wanting them. We had hundreds of thousands of back issues in stock before even getting into new inventory. New inventory we try to keep about 2 years worth of new stock on hand for ongoing series and big events. Not all at once but thru inventory management and replacement. At about the 2 year point we should begin seeing previously owned inventory arriving removing the need for continually restocking with brand new copies. If in that time frame something happens and it’s a popular title then trades start to fill the gap.

Do you have enough time, patience and capital to work towards those goals? You don’t want to be taking out a 10 year loan on a business with a 5 year lease. Are you prepared to order heavy right up front so that when the 6 month welcome to Diamond discount runs out you still have a decent discount in place instead of getting caught dropping back to 35%. You also need to keep your credit straight out the gate so you can get off COD after 6 months which saves $60 to80 a month in COD fee’s.

Operating on the assumption that you’re thinking about inventory ordering for stocking a walk-in store and not an online only type business.

Know your market. Inventory Control. Increase gradually.
An example, large portions of the country don’t even know comics still exist since newsstand distribution shut down in the 90’s taking the spin racks away from every small town in the country. Computers and internet didn’t come around for many of us until the turn of the century and that was dial up. Things are different now. You may need to create/build the market itself over years by having what people will slowly begin to want on hand but not in qty that makes it a money pit. We use a very simple method.

Marvel and DC order 1 of every title.
Image, Dark Horse, IDW and Zenescope order 1 of every titles first 4 issues.
Take your subscription list and double it and add that to the order. The reason is 1 of those copies are already paid for and a portion of the second copy is already paid for by what’s left from the subscriber discounted price minus cost. That makes it low risk to have a copy on the shelf hoping that if one person liked it enough to subscribe, someone else will eventually also. If you have 10 Walking Dead subscriptions, order 20 roughly. If the product doesn’t sell then even heading to the dollar boxes for long term or online discounting, you aren’t actuially losing money.

Next you have to look at your Excel sheet and figure out how many comics you need from each of the 3 categories to get to the discount level you want to remain at minimum. Let’s say you need another $300 for Marvel. The next step is to look at what Marvels offering Deep Discounts on. If you buy 275% of this comic compared to what you bought of something else you get an extra 15% discount or such. Then you look and say you have 12 Captain Marvel 7’s on order, then if you add 6 more you save on all 18!!!

Still need more, listen to your customers. Did one or more people mention a specific Variant Cover you could acquire by purchasing more comics? Maybe you can add another 10 copies to what’s already on the order to qualify. Maybe it’s not close so you assemble a bundle package for the Ratio’s so one or more people can get packages covering the cost of ordering the extra A Covers.

Have extra money to gamble? Try a few titles from the misc section that sound interesting or you’ve heard customers mention. If they don’t sell after a while move on to another.

See something you think may be the next big thing? Grab extras for spec purposes.

Don’t be afraid to try alternative areas also. T-shirt of the month thing to attract new customers who wouldn’t buy a comic. Diversification of inventory to broaden the potential customer base.

Identify a business you want to be like (see the Mission Statement you just wrote). Do what they do. In our case we identify with Lone Star. We may never be that big but if you want to be like Mike the first step is to start doing what Mike does. Just keep in mind to grow slowly and safely. This is not the 90’s. Almost everyone has a phone, internet and an E-Bay account if they want one. There’s always going to be someone cheaper than you. There’s always going to be someone higher priced. There’s always going to be someone who wouldn’t bend over to pick something up unless it was a $20 bill and other’s that will happily pick up every penny off the sidewalk.

Don’t forget to have fun!!! It’s not a job if you love what you do.

Look, I’m going to be open and honest… mostly cause this is the internet. I stopped shopping at B&M stores because of shop dealers like you. People who over inflate thier books on day of release because they see the eBay sales and think it’s a hot book. You purposely hold back books and charge your customers far more than I feel (as a customer myself) you should. You talk about these tactics openly Here in this forum. You also talk about taking PayPal loans just to keep buying books hoping for that big pay day. That you feel jaded for this or that and that trickles down to your customers. I may not be an expert, and I don’t know the extent of your personal and business life, but from what I see I do not want to be that type of retailer.

I enjoy talking speculation with you, as I always have. But please refrain from giving business advice.

I know that sounds brutal, and I hope that when the time comes someone else will be just as brutal with me. It’s how we learn and grow. Thank you for your time.

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That’s pretty much the definition of hypocritical. It’s all in perspective. Charging the same price or less than everyone else on Day 63 isn’t overinflating the price. In fact, if more stores would continue then we could actually start to nip this FOMO thing in the bud by having a lot of copies available on E-Bay.

Now if you want to get on the NOOONE should be charging more than cover at any location whether they’re on the internet, walk-in or any variation bandwagon then that’s a different discussion. What’s not right is to criticize anyone for any price they feel they need to place an something categorically. If you’re continually buying comics to flip, YOU ARE A BUSINESS, whether you chose to get licensed or try to fly under the radar. In fact NOT being licensed I believe gives you even LESS right to charge more.

As always my intention was to try and help and even if you do not want the advice, this is not a specific for you only conversation anymore according to the new wording of the title. There are other people out there who may be considering ways to grow from hobby to business and interested in some of the steps that can occur in between. I don’t particularly approve of your tossing up discounted listings preFOC undercutting every mom and pop shop in the country but I’ll pick up a gun and get on another plane to fight for your right to screw us again. If anything some of the things I choose to feel I need to do should only be enhancing what you’re trying to do FOC which is a big part of the point in the first place. Subscribe/Preorder and SAVE!!!

I don’t know if that’s at the top of the equation during the first few years of any new Business … speaking for myself, the first few years were just plain work, excessively long hours, financial hardship, etc …

The fun part came later … :vulcan_salute: