All posts by Kevin A. Boyd

Director of the Joe Shuster Awards. Comic Relations Director for Fan Expo HQ. Collector, Fan, Historian and Clinical Data Coordinator.

Thoughts on Free Comic Book Day

I ran free comic book day events at the shop for three years – between 2012 and 2014 (we closed April 30th 2015 so our participation that fourth year were simply books dropped into the packages for delivery the following week.

I think it’s a great idea – new people do come to your shop, and generally it showcases your store and it’s a positive sales day, often it was my best sales day of the year. The more you showcase your retail shop by bringing in guests and having sales in various departments the bigger your traffic and sales potential.

Yesterday I decided to visit two Greater Toronto Area stores on FCBD. One did not partipate in FCBD and treated it like a normal Saturday.

For the two hours I was around the non-participating store I saw steady foot traffic and regular sales on normally priced items. The owner did nothing special to mark the day, but being downtown in a high traffic area on a beautiful, sunny Saturday afternoon people were there and in the mood to spend some money. I certainly was and picked up some figures I was interested in adding to my collection. The FCBD model doesn’t really fit here, the majority of the store stock of comics were manga, and there’s very little FCBD material that fits or serves this audience.

Quite randomly as I was getting in my car to head home, Mike B. who used to work for me at the shop was walking by. He decided to join me on a drive out to Mississauga for what was definitely the biggest FCBD event in the city with multiple big name guests and a great selection of talented local artists.

Since my last visit this retailer doubled his floor space by renting the adjacent unit and opening up the wall between. It gave him floor space to add a large events area where the guests were sitting and new revenue streams like a candy shop, better displays for clothing, action figures and framed artwork. The store was packed when we got there (and things they say were even busier in the first few hours). The line-ups for the cashiers were long and people seemed to be buying. The artists all had great things to say about the day and were happy with the art commissions and sketches they had done.

Reading friends walls who live in the downtown core detailing their own FCBD adventures I was struck by something which did bother me a lot as a downtown Toronto retailer. While I think it’s great that people do the store crawl thing in the downtown core and visit multiple shops, it struck me as offensive (to me, as a consumer I understand why they don’t care) that people would go to comic shops to pick up the FCBD books (in the number allotments determined by each shop), but then would go and rave about the great deals and money they spent at the downtown discount semi-used bookstore chain.

I shop there from time to time, and I have many friends that work there, I’ve even offered them grading and pricing advice from time to time. But the discount semi-used bookstore chain (I say semi because one location has a Diamond account) was directly responsible, in my opinion for the decline in new book sales in the core shops after the Bloor Street location opened. I understand people want to pay the lowest price, but it is impossible to compete on new product sales when this store marked the same books down to slightly above cost. It meant reducing orders dramatically and lessening the risks. It forced us to specialize more on what did sell, and on the material the loyal customers wanted.

So to read people preferred spending money there after visiting comic book shops and taking the Free Comic Book Day books offends me as a former retailer. At a time when comic shops are struggling, that’s like a slap in the face in the retailers who spent time and money organizing FCBD events at their shops. It says we’re not competitive enough to be a proper alternative to the Amazons and discount book shops. People will come and take the free product you bought to get potential customers in the door, but they are walking out and buying discounted product at your non-FCBD participating competition.

Thankfully the stores I went to were clearly unaffected by the trials and tribulations that their downtown comic book store peers are facing. The first shop doesn’t sell the same material that the discount chains sell, so it remains a destination for people who want what it does have to offer – it doesn’t need the FCBD gimmick to draw people in. It has a devoted audience and they are coming anyway. The store that went big is in an area that doesn’t have the discount chain and has diversified – I’d still say trades and books were probably their slowest moving product line – with singles, toys, statues and candy being the prime movers. It also saw more families.

6th Anniversary of shop opening – 2/2012

This week marks the 6th Anniversary of the opening of the Comic Book Lounge + Gallery at 587A College Street which opened in early February 2012, picking up from Dragon Lady Comics, which closed in late January of that year. The Lounge’s retail location closed on May 1, 2015. Incidentally, Marvel’s Fantastic Four title officially came to an end the day two days before that.

 

2018 Update

familyguyNot much is happening with the Lounge these days, our remaining customers transitioned over to ALL NEW COMICS inc. last year. We still have a fairly large inventory of graphic novels that we bring out for sale at local events like the Toronto Comicon in March and Fan Expo Canada in late August/early September, and Toronto Fan Days in December.

I myself am very active with my consulting work as the Comics Relations Coordinator for Fan Expo HQ and their family of shows. That keeps me pretty busy year round and I travel to places like Vancouver, Dallas, Orlando, Boston, Tampa Bay and in 2018 to Calgary and Edmonton. I also coordinate the Joe Shuster Awards for Canadian comic book creators.

Some people have asked if we would ever reopen the Comic Book Lounge + Gallery as a retail store and the answer to that is pretty easy: no.

While the CBL+G was a fun experiment on College Street with our partners at the location between 2012 and 2015 – Guerrilla Printing, the Toronto Cartoonists Workshop, Temple of Toys and Back Space Toronto the concept only works if all partners were doing well, and the realities of Toronto’s downtown retail situation – with high rents and traffic flow issues that ebbed and flowed due to construction, transit problems, Canadian weather and lack of downtown parking eventually caught up with us.  Good on those who are able to make it work, but I haven’t found a shop in Toronto that hasn’t had to suffer through variations of these problems and some other shops have followed us and also closed (or forced to close) or had to relocate and rethink their approach.

I think I was relatively lucky. Risk is high and rewards are low in this business. Unless you are playing the shell games associated with comics retail to try and generate revenues, people are buying less comics than they used to. Rather than analyze why that is, I’ll just say that the decline of sales meant shrinking orders, and shrinking orders meant less sales – to the point where you just have to focus on keeping your regulars happy, and even they start question their commitment and shift their orders or quit when the quality declines. This ultimately led to my decision not to try to relocate in the spring of 2015 and focus on maintaining orders – returning to Fan Expo HQ unexpectedly in the fall of 2015 meant making a decision that would ultimately benefit my loyal customers as well. I still look after them, but I don’t need to be active in the retail side and I could also end my relationship with Diamond, which was not positive in those final years.

And here we are, early 2018. The stock is paid for, there are no outstanding bills. I get to enjoy my comics each week.  All is good.

Kevin

 

 

 

 

Status update Spring 2017

Thanks for visiting the site.

As you know, our brick and mortar store closed two years ago (April 30, 2015). From May 2015 we provided orders and delivery/pick-up options to our existing customers who wanted to continue with us and continued to do conventions.

In October 2015 I was hired by Fan Expo HQ to be the comic relations coordinator and lead comics consultant for their family of conventions that includes FAN EXPO CANADA, TORONTO COMICON, Fan Expo Vancouver, Fan Expo Regina, Fan Expo Dallas, MegaCon Orlando and subsequently MegaCon Tampa Bay and Boston Comic Con. This necessitated a downgrade of what retail services I could provide so I struck an arrangement with Canadian online comics superstore ALL NEW COMICS to gradually shift new comics ordering services for our customers to their site.

This transition took a year and was completed in December 2016. I closed our Diamond account on December 28th, 2016. I still provide a pickup point for the old Lounge customers who purchase from All New Comics, Inc. at this time. We still have a lot of inventory, but this will be sold off gradually at conventions and online over the next few years. Since my time is limited this will likely mean just at events like Toronto ComiCON, Fan Expo Canada, Toronto Fan Days as well as the occasional Toronto Comics Show or Oshawa Comicon.

Thank you for your support of the years, we are very proud of what the Lounge accomplished in it’s five years.

Kevin Boyd

 

 

 

 

 

Books I’m currently enjoying – end of 2016 edition.

Glenn Gould (NBM)

Harvey Kurtzmann Library Vol. 2: Playboy’s Complete Trump (Dark Horse)

The 1964 New York Comicon

Michael Moorcock Library Vol. 4: Elric: Weird of the White Wolf (Titan)

Amazing Spider-Man Epic Collection Vol. 2: Great Responsibility (Marvel)

Legends of the Dark Knight: Norm Breyfogle (an older release) (DC)

The Art of Jose Gonzalez (Dynamite)

Ditko Unleashed (IDW)

The Life and Legend of Wallace Wood Volume 1 (Fantagraphics)

We Told You So: Comics As Art (The Fantagraphics Story) (Fantagraphics)

 

On Comics Retailing

A version of this post was posted on my FB wall in December.

Comic shop closures are a thing the community is discussing, as is usually the case when we end the year and start the next. The holidays can be a make or break time for many comic shops. We closed our retail operation in the spring of 2015, but the decision to close was made in January 2015.

Personally, I think we’re in for a few more shuttering in the GTA in the new year but it’s also a year of changes as we see some downtown stores relocating as their old locations are being renovated or demolished for new developments or current leases end. Continue reading On Comics Retailing

Best of 2016? Comic writers

gmruz3t4zfvzaa2c5xfz.pngIt’s hard for me to pick a best of comics list from those I read this last year so here instead are the writers I’m reading:

MARVEL:
5. Mark Waid (Avengers, Black Widow, Champions)
4. Dan Slott (Amazing Spider-Man, Clone Conspiracy)
3. Brian Michael Bendis (Guardians, Spider-Man, Iron Man)
2. Kieron Gillen (Darth Vader)
1. Jason Aaron (Mighty Thor, Unworthy Thor, Dr. Strange, Star Wars)

The single most satisfying comic Marvel published in 2016 was Darth Vader, in my opinion, but Aaron gets the edge for volume.

DC:
5. Grant Morrison (Wonder Woman Earth One)
4. Greg Rucka (Wonder Woman)
3. Peter Tomasi (Superman)
2. Tom King (Batman, Omega Men)
1. Scott Snyder (Batman, All Star Batman)

The single most enjoyable comic series for me from DC in 2016 has been Superman (post Rebirth), but the Batman guys get the edge from me for keeping it fresh.

Image:
5. Rick Remender (Black Science)
4. Jonathan Hickman (East of West, etc)
3. Robert Kirkman (Invincible, Walking Dead)
2. Ed Brubaker (Fade Out, Kill or be Killed)
1. Brian K. Vaughan (Saga, Paper Girls)

Tough to rank this group.