January 24, 2018
A Winter We Should All Be Extra-Nice To Comics Shops We Like
One thing of interest right now to nearly everyone who pays attention to the various comics industries is store closures and potential store closures in the Direct Market of hobby and comics shops. The store-to-store anecdotal testimony that started after San Diego last year and hasn't ceased indicates a lot of stores having a horrible time of it. I don't even really see a pattern, at least not in my inbox: some of the shops like the one discussed here
seem to be classic strip-mall type stores, but I've heard from some of the hipper stores we have that their business has soured in similar fashion.
I think a run of closures could be exacerbated by timing, the fact that a lot of older, foundational comics stores are being run by guys nearer retirement age than the last time the business started to turn red and throb in a systemic way. I also think there are fewer people reading comics in the obsessive way best served by the Direct Market, even as more people may read comics in a wider sense.
Gone are the days of overlapping coverage in most big cities. I noticed while in Seattle last Fall that a neighborhood that had five stores when I moved there in the mid-1990s now had one -- and not the one I would have guessed. The same kinds of young people live in that neighborhood as lived there in 1995. Chris Pitzer noted to me this morning in an e-mail that his home base of Richmond, Virginia has gone from 12-15 comics shop to as low as two with one small chain's recent closure of its auxiliary stores.
Comic shops have never been the only way to engage with comics, and never will be, and the attention to it has always been slightly oversized due to the fact that certain genres, primarily superhero comics, are most at home there. It's a good market in its way, though, with a lot of advantages even when ailing, and one I hope makes it to the next stage of its lifespan with as little damage as possible.
posted 8:55 am PST
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