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Evan Dorkin on the Scarcity of Shops in Small Town America
posted August 24, 2005
Via The Internet
I'm not known as being the biggest fan of the average comic shop (average meaning shithole, more or less). But what I find interesting is how so many folks crab about the paucity of good shops, yet no one seems to have the balls to open their own store and show everyone how it's done. True, I'm not running to the library for a copy of The Idiot's Guide to Starting a Small Business, but at least I have the excuse of already having something to do with the sad state of comics, a new daughter to support, and the fact that I'm already in debt, thank you very much.
Why don't more people put their money where their mouth is? Especially professionals who have made a financial killing in comics, and profess a love for the medium and the business and would have an interest in the future of both? Maybe it's because of that nasty old debt thing. They don't want to lose that money on a risky venture like a comic shop. Because it is incredibly hard to open and run a comic book shop, especially a good one. And even the good ones seem to struggle. Because retail is tough, and retailing comics is particularly difficult. Comics are a luxury, and still an outdated, backwards medium most people can and do live without (whatever they're priced at and no matter how many recent mainstream articles are written that extoll their virtues). There's a reason why, when a comic book bull session turns to the idea of opening a store of one's own, someone always has to mention that it's a crazy fucking idea. And it is. And I guess that's why nobody opens shops. A few folks I know who looked into the idea couldn't get any capitol, nobody wanted to put their dough on a perceived loser. Maybe only people as succesful as Kevin Smith or wrestler Rob Van Dam can afford to open a comic book shop, people who don't necessarily need the income from such an operation. If opening a shop is so daunting and seemingly lunatic, doesn't that speak volumes about the commercial viability of the product, of the medium? Or at least the perceived viability?
Would comic sales soar if more shops (and more professional shops) opened? I kind of think they might, but like most comics folks, I'm no businessman (Another reason folks might shy away from renting a store and getting a Diamond account). I believe in comics, and I do believe they could (and should) have a wider audience. Maybe not a mass market by modern standards, perhaps, but I do think more people would read comics if they had their eyes opened to them (especially if marketing and in-store salesmanship were stronger). Manga has proven that to a large degree.
The reasons I can't open a store are probably a lot of the reasons other folks would cite for being a customer rather than an owner/operator (I also don't have the best history with customer relations, but surely there are nicer people out there than me). But I'm sort of amazed so few people take the plunge, given the enthusiasm people have for their hobby and the medium, and the outright anger people (myself included) have expressed over the retail situation. I guess it's more fun to try publishing, or organizing conventions, or running websites. At the same time, I'm just as amazed anyone does still jump into the game, the two newly-opened shops that have been covered on CR and elsewhere do give me hope. But two decades of being involved in the Direct Market in one capacity or another doesn't give me too much of it.