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  1. #1
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    Talking How to open comic book shop?

    I am thinking about open my own comic book store & looking for some advice from someone that has been successful. I have zero experience, just a love of comics & graphic novels so I have a few questions, but of you don't have time I totally understand.

    1) How many comics would you estimate to open up shop & fill out my inventory?

    2) Recommended distributor or wholesale for books & print?

    3) Distributor for toys or other novelty items?

    4) Vintage comics, do they sell? Suggestions on where to find them.

    Or any other tips or advice that you think would be helpful.

    I really appreciate any thoughts you pass on. Thanks for your time!!

  2. #2
    Hardcover addict dupont2005's Avatar
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    Number of comics will depend on size of store. Also assume plenty of moderns will find their way into the back issue bins and you'll probably want a storage unit, an accurate catalog of what you have and where, and an online store of some kind, especially for any high dollar items. No need in having money makers sitting around not making money.

    Your main distributor for everything will be Diamond. Any odds and ends you carry otherwise are inconsequential.

    Vintage comics sell depending on price and grade. Overpriced and overgrazed stuff sits in bins. I would recommend selling all the good stuff online and letting the less desirable vintage stuff sit in the bins for those who browse. Best place to find them is in bulk through Craigslist. Buy out entire collections and other failed stores merchandise. You may need to make some road trips. Buying out collections is probably better. Store owners will definitely cherry pick what they sell off in bulk, and you'll likely have boxes filled with hundreds of copies of Youngblood #1. Collectors will have full runs, maybe minus key issues that were sold off separate, but maybe not.

    Further advice would be don't do it. If you decide to do it, carry enough cash or credit to keep the bills paid a year. My old comic shop owner had his wife run the place and they said they made 10k a year, so fine to keep a housewife busy, but if they actually had to hire employees, especially a manager, it would have been a money pit.
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  3. #3
    People Think I'm a Goob! PCPaperbacks's Avatar
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    This is from a few years ago, but here is the Mile High Comic owner blogs, there is a series of them in this list on How to Open a Comic Shop

    http://www.milehighcomics.com/tales/main.html
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  4. #4
    Where the sun don't shine Pro's Avatar
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    I would advise you to make it a duel-type store that doesn't focus solely on selling superhero comics. Sales are in decline and with the economy as it is putting up a succesful comic store is going to be very difficult.

    A bookstore/comicstore combo might work out a little better.
    A store combining comics with the toys that are derived from them might work out a little better.

    Also selling backissues online might give you some much needed refunds on comics that aren't selling in your store.

  5. #5
    Me Likey Bouncy Huh?'s Avatar
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    I hate to be a downer, but without knowing many specifics, let me give you some advice:

    1. Unless you live in a large city and there are no comic stores in your area (within 10 miles or so), you have less than a 1% chance of success. Even if you live in a large city and there are no stores near you, you still have a very small chance of success.

    2. You should attempt to avoid back issues at all costs. Focus on trades and new books. Try to order only what you are sure you can sell. Anything you don't sell should be put in a storage unit (not in the store) and sold via your website or on ebay etc. The idea would be to have a small (low rent), well-organized, location that only carries new books and trades.

    3. If you are going to be a comic store, then be a comic store. Don't stock T-shirts, figures, statues, trading cards, dvds etc. in your store. People do not buy these items from comic stores. You will waste your money stocking things that will never sell.

    4. Before you decide to open this store, you should ask yourself why someone would come to your store to buy something that they can buy online for less money... if you cannot think of a good reason, you should not open your store.

    I just don't want to see you waste your life savings and a ton of time without understanding just how difficult making a comic store work financially is going to be. If you want to lower your risks (and costs), consider an online-only store.
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    The Notorious BIB mattbib's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mancave View Post
    I have zero experience, just a love of comics & graphic novels...
    I suggest you continue to read comics and graphic novels and forego opening a shop.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pro View Post
    I would advise you to make it a duel-type store that doesn't focus solely on selling superhero comics. Sales are in decline and with the economy as it is putting up a succesful comic store is going to be very difficult.
    But, according to so many fanboys, comic books are still doing great, and it would be stupid to say otherwise.

    Seriously, I agree with the posters who say don't do it. Opening a bookstore that sells comics on the side would be better. But a comic book store that sells other things on the side is a bad idea if you wanna get rich.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by mancave View Post
    I am thinking about open my own comic book store & looking for some advice from someone that has been successful. I have zero experience, just a love of comics & graphic novels so I have a few questions, but of you don't have time I totally understand.
    Besides looking @ the milehigh link:

    1. Start saving your $ now. You'll probably lose $ in each of the first 3 years and you need to have cash in reserve so you AND your business can survive.
    2. If you really want to do it, then do it. Give it 100% and not an ounce less. Too many people are stuck in jobs they hate.
    3. Don't be the "Comic Book Guy" from the Simpsons.
    Last edited by Skib; 02-11-2011 at 09:00 AM.

  9. #9
    Why so serious? G. Wayne's Avatar
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    Above all else, how much money do you have to start? I did an incredibly loose estimate for central PA, and it came to about $25,000. That includes rent, utilities, stock, barebones advertising, materials like shelving and boxes, and enough extra money to carry you through for a month or 3. Keep in mind, unless you have a potential goldmine of a market in your area, you won't profit for at least a year. And even if you -do- profit, you'll need to put that money back into the store.

    And that money's not even considering any employees. Personally, I don't think one person can handle running a shop all day, but ymmv on that.

    Then there's knowing what sells. I worked at a hobby store for a little last year, and while the big books like Spider-Man, X-Men, the Avengers, Batman and the like sold out, things like Star Wars, the Buffy comics, and horror comics sold pretty consistently too. You need to keep up to date on what you're selling, and what might sell, what won't sell, and order accordingly. Diamond will try to tell you otherwise though. (I forget what their rule of thumb is called, something like "5 and regret" but it's best to ignore anything Diamond will try to tell you about what you need to order.)

    But yeah, you'll need more than just superhero comics. A single weekly shipment from Diamond will cover a broad range of comic titles and graphic novels, but there's all sorts of stuff you -could- carry. What's popular in your area? Card games like Magic? Tabletop RPGs like D&D or Vampire? Miniature games like Warhammer? Anime? Manga? And it's just my opinion, but don't bother with action figures.

    Quote Originally Posted by mancave View Post
    I am thinking about open my own comic book store & looking for some advice from someone that has been successful. I have zero experience, just a love of comics & graphic novels so I have a few questions, but of you don't have time I totally understand.

    1) How many comics would you estimate to open up shop & fill out my inventory?
    This is tricky.

    One thing about Diamond is that ideally speaking, they want you to order 3 months in advance. (If you don't, they'll try to send you multiple copies of issues you do not want.) So, theoretically, you could pile up three months of back issues to get up to date with Diamond, THEN open your store. But keep in mind, that's just a crazy idea of mine.

    On the other hand, I think you -could- get away with a single weekly shipment from Diamond to start.

    Quote Originally Posted by mancave View Post
    4) Vintage comics, do they sell? ...
    They do.

    But depending on how you do it, it can be a can of worms.

    Unless you're sitting on a lot of valuable comics already, you'll need to go out and buy collections yourself. And let's just jump ahead past all the time and money you'd need to invest getting a sizable amount of back issues. There's a couple things to keep in mind.
    -Unless you want to try to find issues people ask you for (which would be a bad idea anyway until you get a solid customers base, and even THEN it's not so good), it's impossible to tell how long you'll be sitting on that issue of Incredible Hulk you paid $100 for. You might be able to sell it in 24 hours. You might get "stuck" with it for 2 years. And really, that $100 would be better spent on merchandise you know you can turn around quickly.
    -And for every old issue of Justice League you sell for $10, you'll be sitting on books that aren't even worth their cover price
    -And even when you think you have more than enough back issues, you'll have someone come in and ask for something completely random that you don't have, and frankly, it wouldn't be worth it to carry.

  10. #10
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    I opened and owned a small retail business for almost four years. Although it wasn't a comic book store, I could give you some basic retail pointers.

    Everything you learn now will save you tons or money and heartbreak in the long run.

    My first recommendation, and (I WISH I would have done it), especially since you haven't worked at a comics store before, is to go, even if you have to just volunteer, and work for a really successful store for at least a few months (preferably about 6). The owner will appreciate the dedicated, serious help and you'll learn a ton. Be a total sponge and learn everything you absolutely can.

    If you have any questions on you lease or advertising I'd be happy to help. Don't get screwed on your lease-no % of sales. Don't sink a ton of money into an expensive retail space. Remember, comic shops are destinations. Just cause your in the mall doesn't mean you'll pull in significantly more business.

    Remember writing press releases is free and any kind of publicity is worth its weight in gold. You'd be surprised how many articles local publications will be willing to write on you. Look up press releases online and make it look professional. Be aware of how many phonebooks exist in your market and spend wisely. Ads are VERY expensive and lots of areas have 3 or 4 books now.

    As mentioned above, SELL ONLINE! You can use website templates to cheaply and easily build an e-commerce site. I have a feeling after a few years of dealing with the public, you'll appreciate your website more and more. It makes your life so much easier and it costs next to nothing.

    Finally-and this is strictly from a comics customer perspective, but please strive to keep the place presentable. So many shop owners just don't get that. When you're thinking about designing the store, look at how big toy chains look and forget about trying to make it look like most shops. Remember a professional looking store will put non-hobbyists at ease and your store will see increased sales. Remember, you don't have to design it for fanboys, cause they'll come anyway, design it with non-readers in mind.

    You might want to see what warren ellis had to say on the subject in the Come in Alone archives here. Also, the owner of a store called isotope had a pretty good column going here I believe.

    Best of luck if you end up taking the plunge, like I said, if you have any general retail or small business questions please message me and I'll help if I can.

  11. #11
    Hardcover addict dupont2005's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Huh? View Post
    3. If you are going to be a comic store, then be a comic store. Don't stock T-shirts, figures, statues, trading cards, dvds etc. in your store. People do not buy these items from comic stores. You will waste your money stocking things that will never sell.
    I'm sure it depends on location but I always thought all that extra stuff sold well.
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by dupont2005 View Post
    I'm sure it depends on location but I always thought all that extra stuff sold well.
    I don't think it necessarily sells a lot but I think the profits are pretty good. Plus they're an ancillary sale you wouldn't otherwise make. But think about your local comics store. If they carry statues, they've probably displayed the same ones for years. That's a good amount of money tied up.

    It seems like that might be one of the temptations starting out is to buy a bunch of that stuff just to fill up the store and have some cool looking shwag but that stuff could just as easily end up as dead inventory.

  13. #13
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    I also always wondered this, although I certainly wouldn't suggest it without really looking into it.

    I wonder how much back issue stock a store really needs. I know people expect it, but god, that's a lot of money to tie up in inventory with only speculation to guide you on what you would end up moving. (Although the poster above definitely had the right idea of buying whole collections).

    On the whole, though, I think a lot of that money might be better used to have a REALLY solid TPB section. You could also save a ton on rent with all that space cleared up (think about how much space longboxes take up in some stores).

    Has anyone here had recent experience in retail? I'd be really interested to know about what percentage of sales comes from back issues.

    I would also be curious to know how much taxes really get paid from those sales, though. I guess maybe that's one small saving grace for retailers.

    It would also make the stores look a lot cleaner. I always thought if I had a store I'd at least put longboxes in drawers so it wasn't the focal point of the store.

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by G. Wayne View Post
    Above all else, how much money do you have to start? I did an incredibly loose estimate for central PA, and it came to about $25,000. That includes rent, utilities, stock, barebones advertising, materials like shelving and boxes, and enough extra money to carry you through for a month or 3.
    I'm not familiar with the specific area but I suspect that's a considerable underestimate.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Iangould View Post
    I'm not familiar with the specific area but I suspect that's a considerable underestimate.
    I don't know where he's looking to open, but I STRONGLY agree.

    He's certainly gonna need a LOT more financing than enough to support him for "a month or three." Most small businesses don't turn any real profit for the first few years.

    I would guess that estimate is a solid 50k short, but that's just a shot in the dark.

    The worst thing would for him to open start to slowly but steadily build a clientele, maybe even have a few really good months and then just not have the scratch to keep things going.

    And don't forget those ever-present hidden costs that inevitably pop up on a daily basis.

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