Discounting as a Game Retail Strategy

I started writing this as a post for a Facebook group full of great retailers I’ve become acquainted with over the past few months and realized I had so much to say that I should blog about it instead. It was brought on by some reactions to some comments I made about running events at a loss and some general comments I (and others) made about discounting being a poor business strategy. It snowballed into a few deep discounters stating that retailers selling boxes of Magic Cards for more than they do are wrong to do so. They said some other things about buying business, incentivizing customers with discounts, and that “some profit is better than none” while simultaneously not understanding that gross profit doesn’t actually mean that you made any money.

In beginning to write the post I found myself stating unilaterally that undercutting your competition doesn’t work in the game trade. Of course that’s a bit presumptuous so I’ve decided to discuss the experience Tracey and I have had the past 6+ years. That said, it’s not going to work pretty much ever. If it works for you, you’re the exception and you may have still done irreparable damage to your business. If you’re reading this and saying “but all my online sales!”, you’re  a retailer that has a B&M because you can’t get the access to product you need otherwise and would make more net profit if you could dump your retail location and switch to selling exclusively online. Or maybe you just love it. Because let’s face it, you’re not getting rich owning a comic or game store and filling TCGPlayer orders in a warehouse is a whole lot less effort than hand selling.

I’m getting to a point, I promise.  In 2017, game retailers generally agree that most markets are saturated with game (CCG) stores. Opening up a new store in one of these markets and dropping your prices to undercut all the existing businesses doesn’t work. Your competitors have customers and you don’t. They’ve built communities and you haven’t. In building communities they’ve cultivated meaningful relationships that you don’t have. If you’re the one doing doing the undercutting, your best case scenario is it causes a price war and starves all the businesses of cash until someone closes. This opens space in the market to pick up those existing, most likely disgruntled, customers. For your sake, hopefully they don’t blame you (they probably will).  Unfortunately, in this best case, the newer store without the established base is the one that closes most often. Savvy competitors will essentially ignore you and let you starve yourself out. They also know that once you start to fail you’ll do any number of financially irresponsible or ethically questionable things in an effort to right your ship. You’re not operating in a vacuum, your competitors will react to the things you do. You’re probably not smarter than the last guy and they can probably tell you what you’re going to do next before you do it.

idiotSomething a wiser man than me once said.

We deal with on average 1 new store per year opening up in our market. They always go with beating our prices as their primary strategy. I don’t know why this is the tactic that everyone thinks is best, but it’s what they all do. They don’t do enough investigation about their competition and why they’re successful, they just look at the prices and say, “I can beat that!”

There have been clubhouses, chains, and well funded start-ups and they’ve all gone belly up. The first time it happened to us we weren’t sure what to do about it. We’d been in business less than a year and were genuinely afraid. This store opened up half a mile down the street and most of our customers had to drive past it to get to us. We ended up doing 2 things after gaining as much information we could about our soon to be competitor; one was a great idea and the other was terrible. First, we worked really hard to make our store better by expanding and adding additional dedicated play space. We weren’t certain we could afford it yet but we felt we had to accelerate our plans and add it a year before we originally intended to. Second, we matched their $2.99 price on Magic boosters. Adding the space was a huge success, price matching probably cost us $10,000 in gross profit. What of this new competitor? No one played there. No one cared about it. Half or more of our players didn’t know it existed. The ones that did disliked the manager and the less than ethical way he ran the store. To our surprise, we’d successfully built a loyal following because of how we ran our business and treated our customers. They didn’t care what we charged for a pack of cards. We gradually increased our price back to $3.99 and we haven’t looked back. I will caveat that by saying that we do offer special pricing by the box or by the case, not crazy lowest common denominator pricing, but fair pricing that allows us to continue supporting our community and stay healthy as a business.

There have been several others to open since our first experience. All of them nice people following their dream of owning a game store. The common thread between them seems to have been a lack of understanding of the market they entered. It’s a well served market and there’s not a lot of room. There are stores 30 minutes to the east, west, and south and sparse population to the north. The best option (and still not great) to open a store in the area is to find an under-served area of Greater New Orleans. What those might be I’m not sure. Logistically it would be a nightmare for us to open on the South Shore so I’ve never looked into it (plus we’ve made some great friends with stores of their own). I highly recommend not marrying yourself to a particular geography. If you want to own a game or comic store then find an under-served market and open there or buy a store that’s already open. You’ll be much happier with the path of least resistance. You might also find that long time retailers you considered making your competition can become your biggest cheerleaders.  We all want a strong healthy game trade after all.

If you do plan to open in a place with competition then you’d better be able to identify an opening in your market or understand from day one that it’s going to be you or them and plan accordingly (shitty, I know). Then you win by operating ethically and being a better store that adds more value to the customer experience (deeper pockets don’t hurt either). Customers aren’t stupid. They’ve seen it all before. Most stores don’t make it 2 years and they know it. They’re not going to make an investment in a new one just because you can save them a couple bucks.

Winning on price does not create customers that will be loyal to you. It drives consumers that are loyal to price to you. If your competitor is doing it right then you’re not going to pry very many customers away from them with a low price strategy.

As always – thanks for reading!
-Steve

The Old Dog – Conventions

the old dog
They finally found a way to make money off comic book conventions. Take out the comic books.

I know, a cheap shot, but not really far from the truth. This column was originally started not long after Wizard World New Orleans, which was way too long ago to just be getting around to writing it now. So I have to apologize for the delay in this column. When I started I was hoping at the very least I’d get one column out a month. My ideal situation would be one a week, but I pretty much knew that wasn’t going to happen. So let’s see if I can at least get to one a month.

The idea behind this column came to me after having a table at the most recent Wizard World in New Orleans. And then a month later I set up at a convention in Memphis. It was a lot smaller con than the one in New Orleans. The Memphis one was the first year for that con. But both cons had one thing in common. An artist alley that lacked comic book creators.

Before we go too far I want to say I have nothing against Wizard World. It’s not a comic book convention. It’s a Media convention. People aren’t going to necessarily see comic book creators. They’re going to see Chris Evans. Or Matt Smith. Or a dozen other movie or tv actors. That’s the draw of these cons. When they opened the door on the first day of the con it was kind of funny. I was set up on the side of a main aisle. The conventions goers rushed into the convention center and right up the aisle, past the dealers, past those of us set up in Artist Alley and headed straight to the back of the center where all the Media guests were set up. Eventually things calmed down and people were walking around the entire hall checking out the scene. But the majority still had their name badges that showed who they were coming to see and get autographs for. They were killing time until then.

But if you go to Wizard World you have to know what it is in advance, they’ve been around long enough and if you look at any of their websites they tell you what’s going on at their conventions. I knew going in that it wasn’t going to be a big money making con for me. Before you set up at a con you need to know what to expect, in as much as you can.

Wizard World is what it is, and there’s nothing wrong with that. A lot of people enjoy it and want to spend a lot of money there. It’s managed to put a con in New Orleans on a regular basis and that was something no one else has been able to do until now.

And for all the harping about not having comic book guests, Wizard World actually has more comic books creators than a lot of other shows that advertise themselves as comic book conventions. They had a lot more comic book creators than the one I went to in Memphis. Granted the Memphis con was new and a lot smaller, but I could probably count on one hand and only have to use a couple fingers from my second hand on how many actual comic book creators was there.

When I first started going to conventions lo those many years ago if you walked Artist Alley pretty much every table was manned by a comic book creator, be it an artist, a writer, maybe an editor or publisher of a small indy company; but all connected to the creation of comic books. I can remember walking the aisles and talking to Dave Sim, Mike Grell, Joe Monks, Mike Zeck, the list goes on and on. All you saw was people that were in the business of creating comic books. They weren’t all big names, there were a lot of small indy people like myself, trying to make a name for themselves and attract some fans to their creations.

Today you walk what they call Artist Alley and you will rarely see someone that creates comic books. You’ll see someone selling jewelry. You’ll see someone selling masks. You’ll see someone selling videos. You’ll see someone, actually a lot of someones, selling prints. Oh yea, there are a lot of artists that sell prints that have absolutely nothing to do with comic books. The closest they’ve come to a comic book is drawing the character and then selling it as a print. Walls of prints. (I’m not going to get too much into this at the moment, I think that’s for another column and a lot more words.) What I’m trying to say is that you don’t see very many people that are making comic books.

Most conventions have morphed Artist Alley into the retail section of the cons. It used to be you had an area that was for the shop owners and other retail people to set up. So you could walk that area looking for something to buy. And then set off somewhere to the side or the back was Artist Alley. This was where you strolled looking at all the people that created comic books. You could buy things here, but it was their comic books or original art or a quick sketch (Another thing the wall of prints have helped do away with, artists doing sketches, some do it but not it was…ok, I said this was for a future column and it will be). But you knew when you walked Artist Alley that was what you were going to see. Creators that created comic books.

Wizard World actually does a lot better job of creating an Artist Alley than many cons. The con I was at in Memphis I don’t think there was a comic book creator even close to me. Lots of table for other things, but none for creating comic books. Wizard World has an Artist Alley and a lot of creators in it, but they still mix in other things, they just have more comic book creators so you can actually walk an entire aisle and see almost nothing but comic book creators behind the tables. Until you come across a wall of prints. (Ooops, sorry, another column.)

I’m not blaming any of the conventions for this. It’s what people are looking for. When they go to a convention nowadays they want to see the Media guest. They want to get the autograph from the tv star. It’s what draw the people in now days.

I’d just like to see more comic book creators at some of these shows. Or at least have the conventions do a better job of having an Artist Alley and not just plop the creators down in the middle of a million other retail vendors to get lost in the shuffle.

I know the money isn’t there for just a comic book convention that caters to just comic book creators and their fans, not for a big show that wants to be like a Wizard World or the other big ones, but I’d love to see some of the smaller ones try for more of a comic book show without all the extras and see how it does.

Regardless of what they do I’ll still be attending conventions and enjoying them. I usually have a good time whether I’m stuck between someone selling prints and someone selling bracelets, but it would be nice to have people that wrote or drew comics next to me. (That’s another column I think about what I get out of a con and what I expect.) I enjoyed Wizard World and talked to a lot of people. I enjoyed the Memphis con even though it was a lot smaller and not as busy.

Before I end this column I do have a question. I knew the Funko character toys were popular, but I never knew how popular. When did they become such a big collectors’ market? At Wizard World they must have had at least half a dozen different vendors selling nothing but these toys. They seemed to be everywhere.

Ok, that wraps up this one. Hopefully I’ll be back a lot sooner with another one. I threw out a few more ideas in this column that I want to follow up about conventions so this may just be part one of a multi part column.

Support Independent Creators.

John Holland will be at Big Easy Comics on Wednesday, July 20th signing his new comic, Ayla Speaker for the Dead.

Have all the fun collecting!

I just got a Kickstarter package in that I pledged to last May and I have to tell you that it has really got me excited about collecting again.  I’m so excited in fact that I’d like to share some of it with you.  I get distracted with work for extended periods and often don’t get to enjoy the comics, art, and toys I’ve collected over the years as much as I’d like.  Most of my friends and customers know I’m a huge Daredevil (I have a complete run from 1964) and Frank Miller fan (way too many copies of many of his books floating around my house).  I’m always upgrading my Daredevil books to nicer copies and I’ve never seen a copy of a Frank Miller comic that I didn’t need another copy of.  So that said, I’m not going to share any of that.  I’m going to share my collection of things from my favorite current comic and artist.  Chew8

It’s no coincidence that the two are connected:  My favorite comic is Chew & my favorite artist is Chew co-creator Rob Guillory.  Not to shortchange him in any way, John Layman (co-creator/writer) is a freaking genius (and he loves cats – I have 4 of them myself).  If there’s a point to what I’m saying it’s that if you don’t read Chew you’re really missing out. The storytelling is original and fantastic and the art is amazing.

I can’t tell you that I have a 100% complete collection because I have been a bit lazy lately about filling in the couple of holes I have, but for the most part I have every printing of every issue of Chew plus anything else Rob has in print.  I’m missing a variant edition of #1 (Larry’s Comics), 3rd printing of #2, 2nd printing of #3, a 2009 Convention Sketchbook, a couple variant covers Rob did for other publishers and I’m sure a few items he did exclusively for Cons since I haven’t been to any the past couple of years. I think the last time I ran into Rob was at San Diego Comic-Con in 2014 (I honestly can’t recall if I went to Wizard World NOLA in 2015 and definitely didn’t go this year, but that’s another story).

Still Need This One!

Still Need This One!


I’ve got a handful of original pages from Chew, prints, and a number of sketch covers Rob did for me.  I would love to meet anyone else that’s this borderline obsessive/compulsive about Chew or Rob’s art.  That’s my favorite part of collecting comics – talking with other people that are just as excited about it as I am (my second favorite is hunting down things that I’m missing).

Now, on to the thing that sparked the post…Kickstarter!  Last May, Skelton Krew Studio created a Kickstarter for a Tony Chu bust and also available to the highest tier of supporter was a never released FDA badge!  Israel and team do a fantastic job with all the Chew merch they produce (yes, I have all of it – it’s already been established that I have a problem) so it was a no-brainer to drop the money. The Kickstarter has really re-invigorated me to get the things I’m missing and getting Rob back out to do a signing at Big Easy Comics. He hasn’t been out to the store since we moved to Covington.

The Chew Kickstarter Kit The Chew Kickstarter Kit

I’ve uploaded images of some of my favorites from my Chew/Guillory collection to share with you, including the bust and badge.  I’ve added captions to the pics so if you’re interested you can take a look.  I’m not about making this post into a catalog of my collection – I like my readers awake.  If you think you’ve got something I don’t then I’d love to hear about it or if you’d like to see some of the other things from my collection I’d be happy to add pictures to the gallery. What parts of your collection do you obsess over?  If you have any questions or want to share anything with me, shoot me an email at stephen@bigeasycomics.com!

Thanks,
Steve

The Old Dog #2

the old dog

Happy New Year!  Well, by the time you read this New Year’s will have come and gone, but as I write this it’s just a few hours from the dropping of the ball to let us know that an old year is done and in the books and we are heading into the unknown of a new one.  So this should tell you something about how exciting my New Year’s Eve celebrations were.  After I finish writing this column I’ve got pages of script to write for Ayla Speaker for the Dead and The Almighty Project.  (Go check Ayla at http://Aylathecomicbook.com while The Almighty Project is still a month at least away from starting.)

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and got tons of gifts and were able to give said tons in gifts also.  For me being on the back side of Christmas means I can finally catch my breath.  In my job that pays the bills I work in retail and we all know what that’s like for the Christmas season.  But the good news is that the Ho Ho Ho Season is done and in the books and we’re heading into relatively slower times.

Which brings up some thoughts to ponder about this column as I type it and wonder what the next few words will be.  How much of this column should be about me?  While you’re not coming here to read about my day in retail (though some days that would make a very interesting column) or what I did on Summer break this column is greatly influenced by who I am.  The title refers to me, the old dog, so I’m part of this column.  You’re not going to get a column written where you’re not sure who the person is or what they feel, that’s not going to be this one.   My thoughts and opinions are going to bleed across the page in this column, for better or worse.

One of the things this column is not going to be is a review column.  But, didn’t you just know there was going to be a but, there will be reviews in this column.   Mostly positive reviews.  I’m not one to write a lot of nasty, negative reviews.  I feel like if I don’t have something good to say, than why say it at all?  I would just rather write about what I like, than what I don’t.   Still saying that I’m not going to claim that I won’t ever write anything negative, because I will.  I could write about the last Superman movie and that would be negative….

In most cases, I’d say 99.9% of the times, no one sets out to write a bad comic book.  A lot of times what you like I might not enjoy as much and what I find enthralling may only get a eh out of you.  That’s ok, there’s a lot of comics out there right now and more than likely there’s something you’ll find to like.

So saying all that what am I going to do in this week’s column?  Write a couple reviews!  For a couple comics that you may not have picked up.  We know that the majority of comic book readers are super hero fans.  I’m not going to debate if that’s good or bad, I happen to like super heroes, I grew up on them and still read them.  They’re not the only things I read and I’m not quite as focused on them as I used to be, but there’s nothing wrong with a good super hero story.

Recently Marvel Comics published two new comics which can be said to fall in the super hero category, though a lot of people may quibble with that.  They’re not your typical Spiderman or Batman comic for sure.   I’m talking about Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur and Patsy Walker aka Hellcat. 

 The second issue of Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur just came out.  This comic is written by Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder (creators of one of my favorite comics published by Image Rocket Girl), art by Natcha Bustos and colors by Tamra Bonvillain.  Moon Girl is Lunella Lafayette, a young African American girl (I might have missed it but I never did catch her age, but I think it’s before teenage hood).  Definitely not your typical star of a super hero comic.  She does fit into the mold of Peter Parker, the smart, genius kid that everyone picks on at school.   She doesn’t have a very high opinion of either her class mates or her teachers.  She’s trying to get into a better school, more suited for her intelligence.  Her parents don’t understand her.

She also thinks that she’s an Inhuman waiting to be born.  I’m not sure if this a fact or just something she’s scared of since the Terrigan mists have been effecting so many people in the Marvel universe lately.  In the first issue she searches out a Kree device and finds it that she hopes will stop any future transformation.  She’s not looking forward to any change in her body, she wants to remain exactly who she is.

Now she’s makes up half the title, the other character is Devil Dinosaur.  DD was created by Jack Kirby back in the seventies and is not one of his better known creations.  I have to admit, while I knew who he was and was aware of his existence, I had never read one of his previous comics.  Evidently there’s a Moon Boy too that is partnered with Devil Dinosaur.  All this takes place a long time ago.  Throw in a bunch of bad ape type people that are after the object Lunella finds that jumps from the past to her time.  Devil Dinosaur follows, Moon Boy is hurt (perhaps dying) and the bad ape type people follow, after the Kree device and all enter the present time.

This is a fun comic.  It’s a comic that really any age could read.  Even though it was written to be all ages, which usually means its going to be boring for anyone over the age of 12, this comic kept me reading and wanting to pick up the second issue.  There’s a lot of humor in the comic, but the creators have given us a character I can believe in and you can’t ask anything more than that.

The next comic I want to talk about is Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat.  I’m not going to go into all the history of Patsy Walker, if I did that we’d be here for hours.  Short version is she was a romance comic published by Marvel in the fifties, some writers brought Patsy into the newer Marvel Age of comics and she’s been around everyone from the Avengers to Hellstorm to Daredevil.  In fact, her more recent appearances have been not in the comic but the Netlix series Jessica Jones.  I enjoyed her in the tv show, but am somewhat surprised by her new comic book.

You would have thought they might have tried to build off her tv appearance and structure her new comic around that character.  Well you would be wrong.  Really, really wrong.

And I’m glad.  The new Hellcat comic is as far from dark and gloomy as you can get.  The writer is Kate Leh, the artist is Brittney L. Williams and the colorist is Megan Wilson.  One of the highlights for Hellcat in the issue is her recovering the tickets to a play for a woman after her boyfriend threw them down the sewer.  So you can see this isn’t your typical adventure bang smash up comic book.  Again like in Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur the creators give us a hero that feels real and has real emotions.  And like the previous comic it’s just a fun read.

If you’re diet of comic books runs only to the ultra serious dark ones you’re probably not going to like either of these two comics, but you really should give them a try.  There’s so much more to the comic industry than just the dark and serious.

Now if I haven’t alienated all of you I’ll be back soon (hopefully next week with stories from Wizard World) so be good to each other and pick up something that you would never think up and give it a chance.  What’s the worst that could happen?  You might like it.

 

John Holland is still writing Ayla Speaker for the Dead which can be found http://Aylathecomicbook.com.  You can also check out an older piece at http://diebold.ws.  He’s also writing three more series that he has a lot of hope will start in 2016.  But then he’s always been a hopeful type guy.

The Old Dog #1

the old dog

I could try and impress you with my STAR WARS cred by starting this column with “It was May 17,1980 and I was at the Lakeside Cinema with my two best friends to see the sequel to STAR WARS.”  And ever word in that statement is true.  But to be honest I had to google the opening date for THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.  Heck, I even had to message Mark to ask what theater we saw it at.  I’m terrible with dates, if it was more than a week ago I’m not going to remember it, much less 35 years ago.

I saw STAR WARS (Sorry, I’m not going to call it A NEW HOPE, that’s not what it was called when I saw it, to me it was will always be STAR WARS) within the week it came out.  I had just graduated school and started a new job at HJ Wilsons.  I was living on the Westbank than, still with my parents in Gretna.  Oakwood Mall had a theater than, back when the mall was a lot smaller and the food court consisted of an Orange Julius stand.

There are some movies and some scenes that stay with you for life.  STAR WARS is one of those movies.  The opening scene after the words scowl by of the slow passage of the mammoth ship left me spellbound in my seat

Though there was no internet at the time I didn’t go into the movie completely clueless to what the movie was about.  The comic published by Marvel had already had at least one issue published.  Or had it?   Memory is funny, it consists of facts and remembrances and what people say, somehow all that gets mixed into what you remember and sometimes you swear you remembered something that just is not true.  So maybe the comic started after the movie came out.  Still there were magazines that were writing about the movie, in the science fiction magazines lines were already being drawn about the movie.  There was an editorial in ANALOG, one of the major science fiction magazines by Ben Bova, taking the movie to task for Luke basically giving up on science in the climactic battle scene and giving in to a mystical force.

There had been a lot of science fiction movies before, but STAR WARS looked lived in.

The first time I saw STAR WARS I was alone.  The next time I was with new friends I had made at work.  I hadn’t know any of these people very long, just knew them really from work, but we all liked STAR WARS and wanted to either see it for the first time or probably mostly the second or third time.   Most of these friends are still in my life today.  I guess STAR WARS fans are just good people to know.

 

After the first movie came out there were toys.  Lots and lots of toys.  I bought some of them.  I wasn’t fanatical about buying the toys.  I know I purchased action figures of most of the main characters from the movie.  When I see some of the prices these figures get today I want to cry.  But it wouldn’t have mattered, I opened all my toys to play with.  I have no idea where any of these toys disappeared to, except for one I still have.  A twelve inch remote control R2D2.  He beeped and his head swiveled and he moved back and forth.  I still have the figure, the remote is lost to who knows where.

For THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (and later for THE RETURN OF THE JEDI) I stood in line with Mark and Sal on opening day.  We were the first in line, we had the day off from work and bought our tickets hours before the movie opened.  We sat there and waited as the line grew and it got closer to time to let us all in.

Pre-Internet it was a lot easier to stay away from spoilers.  I don’t remember if it was for EMPIRE or JEDI that Marvel had released the comic magazine version of the movie early in New York and had to call it back when Lucas Films discovered the comic version of the movie out before the movie itself.  Watching the movie with an entire theater full of people that had no idea what was coming was a treat that in today’s spoiler filled as soon as the movie if not before comes out fans don’t get to enjoy.  When Darth Vader tells Luke that he is his Father the audience was in shock.  And the final battle between Luke and Darth Vader.  I remember sitting in my seat, knowing that it was getting close to when the movie should be ending and thinking that they were going to end it on a cliff hanger, having Luke hanging on for life as Darth Vader stood above him.  We all know that’s not how it ended, but for a few minutes I was wondering.

I remember buying all three movies on VHS when they came out as a trilogy.  And than re buying them with them came out on DVD.  I haven’t watched the movies in ages.  All these thoughts are because of the new movie coming out.  I just purchased my ticket to see it at 9:30 in the morning of the Friday it opens.

After STAR WARS came out there were countless articles about it and interviews with George Lucas.  I remember him making a comment that he had planned STAR WARS to be three trilogies, one showing the creation of Darth Vader, the second the ones that went with STAR WARS and the final one would be set farther down the road with the same characters.  Later it seemed Lucas went back on that and I could never find him saying that.  Maybe like I said, memory can be a funny thing.

The trailers have looked amazing.  The scene with Han Solo and Chewie could bring tears to a Star Wars fan’s eyes.  But I remember how excited I was for the prequels to STAR WARS.  And how disappointed I was when I saw them.  I went to the theater and saw all three, each time hoping against hope that the next one would be better.

To be honest there is no way this movie can live up to all the expectations the fans have for it.  I’m just hoping for a good movie that gives us some of that excitement and joy we all got when we watched the first three movies.  I’ll let you know after I see It what I think.

John Holland is the writer of Ayla Speaker for the Dead which can be found at Aylathecomicbook.com.  You can find his comic Diebold at Diebold.ws.  Sometime in the first half of 2016 The Almighty Project will debut.  He’s working on a few other projects, all in different stages of completion.  In the past he has written comic books for such publishers as Fantagraphics, Malibu, Innoviation, Kitchen Sink and more.

Owning a Comic Shop isn’t always Rainbows & Unicorns

I love the wonder and enjoyment that most customers get from our stores. It’s the best part about being in this business. Customers become your friends and your store their favorite place to go. They want to work for you and some even dream about owning their own store one day. Tracey and I love our business and all of our customers. You guys make tough times like this worth seeing through, so thanks! On to the topic I intended to cover…rainbows-unicorns

It’s been a month and a half since we closed our Slidell location. It’s been a pretty rough transition, especially since we had no intention of closing that store. Tracey has done an amazing job, consistently putting in 80 hour weeks since then to get us back on track. I honestly don’t know how she does it but she’s amazing (and quite possibly a robot). I won’t get into details about Slidell but the bottom line is that the store was holding its own 9 months in but we didn’t have the capital to move it once we were forced out of our existing location (so our landlord could make room for a chain store). But leases and legal stuff, you shout! We have a really great attorney (thanks Tony!) that negotiated the best deal we were going to get given the situation we were in.

Many of our customers have offered assistance or advice in regards to relocating the store and we appreciate where your hearts are. Moving the store sounds really easy. Just find a new spot and “Bam!”, you’re open again. Unfortunately nothing is that easy (or cheap). We’ve negotiated a good number of leases and renovated/moved/opened several stores already. We know what it’s going to cost and how long it’s going to take to get that investment back. Reopening in Slidell would put our other locations at risk and we can’t do that. All that doom and gloom aside, we’re recharged and really excited to get back to work making our Covington and Hammond locations the absolute best they can be.

A final thank you to all the customers and employees that helped us in the transition!

Thanks to our amazing customers for being there for us!

-Steve

Mini-Con is Coming!

MiniConHeader
Comic Cons have become quite fashionable the past few years. Large, mega-events are occurring all over the place and are quite the spectacle. While I do still enjoy attending events like Wizard World New Orleans, Baltimore Comic Con, and San Diego Comic Con, I can’t help but feel that they’ve lost some of what I loved about comic conventions when I was growing up. They definitely still have their place, but they’ve also evolved beyond showcasing comic books and their creators, moving more and more to pop culture and Cosplay. Don’t get me wrong, there are still a decent number of comic dealers at these conventions but typically they’re larger national dealers and they’re all selling the same high grade, high priced comics. Space at these Cons is expensive, often well over $1,000 for a 10×10 booth which makes them impractical for most.

So…about that…
When I was a kid I could go to a comic convention (we just called them “shows”) once or twice a month at a local hotel where there would be a few dozen folks selling just about any comic I was looking for. Some had expensive key issues, some had gold and silver age books, some had dozens of bargain boxes. I could go looking for any random issue of a comic and usually find it. It didn’t have to be the first issue or a character’s first appearance. I was able to bring comics in that I wanted to sell or trade and leave with new comics that I wanted (usually without any money left in my pocket). Those conventions were a lot of fun and something I really looked forward to. They were also cheap to attend and cheap to buy space to sell your comics.

Why do I bring all this up?
Well, I miss those shows and after having some conversations with other retailers and collectors, I found out that I’m not alone. So I figured, I’ve got the space, why not do it? So we’re going to kick it old school. Saturday August 15th, Big Easy Comics will be holding our first “Big Easy Comics Mini-Con” at our Covington location from 10am-6pm. Because the event will be held in our 2,000 sqft game room, attendance is FREE. We’ll be selling 6′ tables to anyone that wants to set up for $25 each (limit 2). You don’t need to be a big dealer or comic shop owner, though if you are, you’re welcome as well. Anyone can buy a table to sell their comics or art. All we’re asking for is the money for your tables, you keep everything else.

Why should I attend?
1. It’s FREE!
2. To have a good time and make some new friends
3. To search through hundreds of boxes of comics for one or two gems you can’t live without
4. Sell or trade in your comics
5. It’s indoors (you don’t want to be outside in the middle of August)

Why should I get a table?
1. You’re a collector or dealer and have comics you want to sell
2. You’re a creator/artist and you want to promote your work
3. We’re going to market the event and provide you with potential customers
4. Get exposure for your business
5. It’s only 25 measly bucksters!

How can I find out more?
You can email me at stephen@bigeasycomics.com

We’ll be putting more details out soon. Space is limited and tables will sell out fast, so reserve yours early! Look forward to seeing everyone August 15th!

Thanks,
Steve

Slidell Store Updates

 

openSlidell

It took a bit longer than we would have liked but we signed the lease for our new store in Slidell last week. If you’re curious, it will be located in The Crossing shopping center at 106 Gause Blvd West, Suite A-2. Familiar landmarks include the Rouses, Sicily’s Pizza, and Piccadilly Cafeteria.  We’ve set a firm date of January 10th for our opening and we’re beginning renovations this week.  The Slidell store will have a similar look and feel to our Covington location.  It will have a shopping area in front with the great selection of comics, toys, and games that our customers have come to expect from us and separate dedicated game room in back.

Currently we’re working on determining exactly what our hours will be and we will post them as soon as we know.  We also received many more applications than we have time to interview so we’re reviewing and prioritizing them as best we can based on experience and whether the availability listed meets our needs.

We would have preferred to open in December but delays in negotiating the lease and 3 major holidays have made it impossible.  In the meantime, I would like to share a little bit about how our store works with our new customers.

Customer Loyalty Program

Big Easy Comics has a voluntary universal discount program called Hero Points that all of our customers are eligible for. Customers earn 1 point for every dollar they spend on items at MSRP. Points earned don’t expire for a year and can be redeemed as noted below.  In order to redeem points at a given level customers much be purchasing at least that much at the time of redemption.  Points are not earned on discounted items like booster boxes, cases, or sale items.

100 points     $5         200 points     $15

300 points     $30       400 points     $50

500 points     $75       750 points    $125

1000 points   $200

Our customers can earn as much as 20% back on their purchases!

 

Subscriptions

Comic readers can open subscription folders now by stopping by our Covington or Hammond locations.  We’ll start pulling for you immediately and work with you to get any comics you might have missed as a result of Magic Comics closing.  There is no minimum number of comics required and free bags and boards are available for subscriptions.  We highly recommend you don’t wait until we open to start your folder to best guarantee you don’t miss any issues.

Special Orders

We place special orders for customers all the time for comics, toys, and games.  We have a pretty simple policy for special orders; we don’t want your money until we have your item(s).  When a customer places a special order, they’re agreeing to buy what we’re ordering for them and we expect they will honor that agreement.  We do not require down payments on special orders unless they are over $100.  For  special orders over $100, we require a 25% non-refundable down payment. Should a customer choose not to purchase an item that was special ordered for them they must pay in full in advance for all future special orders.

Gaming

Our dedicated game room will be available for free open play any time the store is open.   We also regularly hold organized play and tournaments for a number of games including Magic, YuGiOh, Cardfight, Dragon Ball Z, Warhammer, War Machine, Dungeons & Dragons, Heroclix, X-Wing, Attack Wing and so on.  Organized play events do have priority over casual play, but it’s a rare occasion that we can’t accommodate everyone.  All players are expected to respect the rules of the game room and be polite and courteous to other players.  Trading is always allowed in the game room, however cash sales between customers are prohibited.  We sell plenty of snacks and drinks, however you are allowed to bring in outside food as long as you clean up after yourself.

GAME ROOM RULES

1.  Treat others as you would want them to treat you.  Harassment and bullying will not be tolerated.

2.  The only weapons allowed are your sharp wit and biting sarcasm.  All other weapons of any kind are prohibited.  These include, but are not limited to, guns and knives.

3.  Alcohol and drugs are prohibited.  Don’t ingest any before you come to the shop or while you’re with us.  you will be asked to leave and quite possibly not to return.

4.  Big Easy Comics is an all-ages store, so watch your language.  Trust us, you don’t sound cool; you sound like someone lacking a proper vocabulary.

5.  The buying and selling of merchandise between customers on the premises is prohibited.  Don’t set up a fruit stand in our grocery store.

6.  Leave things as you found them.  Your mother doesn’t work here so be responsible and throw out your trash and clean up any mess you’ve made.  Return any tables, chairs, or game room equipment to where it belongs.

7.  Unpaid merchandise is not allowed in the game room.  Don’t make us tackle you, the floor has non-skid in it and we’d hate to scrape our elbows.

8.  Scheduled events have priority for game room use.  Open casual play may not always be available.

 

I was by no means trying to answer every question that could be thought up.  If you have additional questions, message us on Facebook!

 

Thanks,

Steve

Clearing the Air

It was pointed out to me this morning that Wyatt Higginbotham of Wyatt’s Comics and Cards posted an attack on Big Easy Comics on his Facebook page.  We’ve endured countless jabs from him already and we’ve always taken the high road.  I can’t bring myself to do it this time.  We’re not small enough, we’re not local enough, we’re a big evil corporation, we’re picking on him, we’re greedy and so on.  We can’t go back and be a one store operation, so no, we’re not as small.  And why would we?  We’ve done that and it was a great personal and financial struggle to get where we are today.  I certainly wouldn’t want to live through it again.  We are proud to be a family owned business with 5 employees, if that’s not a small business then pretty much nothing is.  Tracey and I have both put in many thousands of hours of work to make Big Easy Comics what it is and it’s a slap in the face every time we hear that “the owner has another job” or “the owner is never onsite” or “this is just a hobby for them”.  Tracey puts in 50-60 hours a week and yes, I have another career but I still put in 20-30 hours each week.  We’re successful because we put every ounce of energy we have and every dollar we make back into Big Easy Comics to make it better for our customers.  How does that make us greedy?  We don’t overcharge our customers for anything, no new product in our store is ever priced above MSRP or cover price.  In fact, we have a rewards program for our customers that allows them to earn as much as 20% back on their purchases in store credit.  We also have booster box and case discounts for our card game products.  If it’s important that we don’t live in Hammond any more, we’re sorry.  We live in Mandeville now where we opened our first store.  I’m not sure what Mr. Higginbotham’s obsession with being an SLU graduate is, but I’m one as well.  After I got out of the Marine Corps, I joined the Louisiana Air National Guard and moved to Hammond where I got my Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science at Southeastern.  I also have an MBA from UNO if anyone really cares to know.

We opened our first storefront in Mandeville in November of 2010 and it was a great struggle for a long time.  School of Comics in Mandeville had already planned to close and we were fortunate enough to pick up most of their customer base but we were learning what it really meant to own a comic shop and just how different owning one is from owning most other types of businesses.  The core for us though from the start was to provide the highest possible customer experience to everyone that comes through our doors in a clean, friendly environment.  There were a couple of points in the first 2 years where we had to decide whether to close or keep pushing forward.  About 8 months after we opened, Wyatt Higginbotham opened “Wyatt’s Sportscards” a mile down the street from us, a chain store co-owned by Chuck’s Field of Dreams, based out of Albany.  We weren’t pleased to say the least, but we have no issue with friendly competition and we certainly wouldn’t describe Chuck’s as a “big evil corporation”, however I can’t help but feel that Mr. Higginbotham is being more than a little hypocritical now that we’re in opposite positions.  At that time we felt it would best serve us to expand the size of our store and put in dedicated game play space for our customers.  It was extremely risky but ultimately successful and led to the game room model we use today.  It wasn’t until later that we had any issue with them, when we were getting reports from customers that Mr. Higginbotham was lying to them about having made some fictional arrangement with us about our Magic the Gathering tournament schedules, essentially saying that he had discussed with us and that we had agreed to schedule events around each other.  Ultimately we were able to outlast their store, we feel because of our customer first mentality.  To this day, we have never met nor spoken to Mr. Higginbotham, except on those occasions when he calls our store pretending to be a potential customer asking what our prices are.  My advice to him is to provide his customers more value than Big Easy Comics does if he wants to be successful.  That’s what the foundation of our business is built on; taking care of our customers and adding more value to their experience than they’ll get anywhere else.  We don’t bad mouth our competition on Facebook, or tell people they’re terrible and that they shouldn’t shop there.  If people want to shop at Wyatt’s Comics, we certainly don’t have any issue with that.  That’s their choice and if they feel that they’re best taken care of there, that’s fantastic.  This isn’t about us, it’s about taking care of the customer.

Why did we choose to open a 2nd store in Hammond?  We have dozens of customers that drive from Hammond to Covington every week because quite frankly, they don’t want to shop at Wyatt’s.  We didn’t do that, he did.  If you want to know why, you should ask them.  I’ve never been in his store, nor would I ever in a public forum disparage a business I’ve never set foot in, but the stories I’ve heard definitely impacted the decision to open a store in Hammond.  So after about a year of hearing complaints from comic readers and gamers, we decided to take a hard look at whether opening another store was something that we could afford to do and whether or not Hammond could sustain one.  I think the results are obvious, we’ve been open for almost 2 weeks now in Hammond and we can’t put into words the overwhelming positive response we’ve gotten so far.

Mr. Higginbotham has also taken it upon himself to bring up our 3rd store in Slidell that we’re opening soon.  It’s honestly heartbreaking that we’re doing it.  Dave Strecker, owner of Magic Comics & Hobbies has been our friend for 8 years.  We share product when the other needs it, we’ve helped each other at conventions, and have a great cooperative relationship in general.  He called me this week to tell me he’s shutting down at the end of November and that he was referring his customers to us because he wanted to make sure they’re taken care of.  He’s one of the greatest people you’ll ever meet and his customers will tell you the same.  Slidell’s game store, Level Up, had just closed at the end of August as well.  We felt like this was such a blow to the community that we should step in if we could.  We decided that day that regardless of the risk, the community in Slidell would support us if we came and supported them.

If this sounds a bit angry, well, it’s because I am.  We run our small business honestly and with integrity.  Speaking as a former Marine, those aren’t just words, they’re a way of life.  We take care of our customers and have excellent relationships with other members of the comic and game store community.  Mr. Higginbotham’s reputation is of his own making, if he wants to be successful he should own that and start putting his customers first.

 

Thanks to all our friends and customers for their support!

-Steve

Expect More From Your Comic Shop

In many ways your local comic book store isn’t at all like other businesses you visit.  You know them and they know you.  You shop there several times a month and develop a relationship with your store and a sense of loyalty.  Often, even a sense of pride.  In doing so, customers often overlook poor service, selections of merchandise, questionable business practices, dirty or cluttered stores, and so on that they would never accept in the other businesses they frequent.

You should absolutely look at your LCS with the same level of scrutiny that you do other businesses.  Small or large, new or established, your LCS should do their utmost to provide you with a positive shopping experience.  expect

  • Their store should be neat and clean.  Not maintaining a clean store shows a clear lack of respect for the people that shop there.  If a shop owner can’t even be bothered to do something as simple as cleaning, how are they going to handle more complex tasks?
  • They should be polite and helpful.  You should feel genuinely welcome in your LCS.  Employees should be helpful and attentive to your needs.  You should not be dismissed or put off or made to feel unimportant.  In some stores it isn’t uncommon for small ‘cliques’ of customers to receive preferential treatment, oftentimes marginalizing other customers.  Every customer should receive and expect to receive the same outstanding LCS experience whether they spend $5 or $500.
  • You should always know what you’re paying for something.  Products should have prices marked so customers can make educated decisions.  Any store that isn’t willing to put a price tag on an item is trying to take advantage of you.
  • Everyone should feel welcome.  Men, women, children, parents, grandparents, straight, gay, democrat, republican, white, african american, Falcons fans, and so on (you get the idea) should all feel welcome and comfortable in your LCS.  If any single group of people isn’t comfortable in your LCS then you shouldn’t be either.
  • In general, they should have what you’re looking for.  A comic book store should have comics.  Tons of them.  We’re at a point where large selections of back issues aren’t an absolute must, but your LCS should have a generous selection of new comics for you to peruse.  200-300 new monthly titles on the shelf at absolute MINIMUM.  You should be able to walk in on a Wednesday and flip through all the new comics that came out so you can pick some up off the shelf.  After all, what’s a comic shop without comics?
  • You should never have the feeling you’ve been taken advantage of.  Good businesses take proper care of their customers and always leave them feeling positive about their experiences.  Is your LCS asking you to pay more than cover price for new comics?  Did you buy a back issue only to find out that you paid way too much?  If you ever get the feeling that your LCS has been less than honest with you, you’re probably right.
  • They shouldn’t constantly be making excuses.  Does the comic distributor make mistakes?  Absolutely.  Do they make enough mistakes for your LCS to be complaining about them several times a week?  Not very often.  If your LCS is regularly not getting you the comics you ordered, it’s generally because they don’t do a good job managing their orders.
  • They should be open when they say they will.  Your LCS should be open the hours they have posted.  Always.  They shouldn’t be opening late or closing early unless there’s an emergency.  They’re breaching your trust when they’re not open when they said they would be.
  • They should know their product.  Your LCS should know comics and how to properly grade them.  How can they make recommendations if they don’t read comics?  How are they setting prices for their back issues if they can’t even tell you what condition they’re in?  How are they putting a value on the collection you brought in to sell them?

If your LCS isn’t taking proper care of you, let them know.  They can’t make changes or improvements unless they know they’re doing something wrong.  If they’re doing an exceptionally bad job, ask yourself why you continue to go.  It may be time to check out another store nearby.  Lastly, if they’re doing a great job, let them know!