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  1. #1
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    Default Seeking Advice on Negotiating with my LCS

    I thought Iíd start this thread here since Brian is a retailer and I assume that many people who read his column are retailers, fans, and people who might generally appreciate and have some input on my question.

    I am seeking some advice on how to approach my LCS owner about giving me a pre-order discount that would enable me to move all of my buying from DCBS to his shop. My local LCS owner is a great guy, very approachable, very easy to deal with. Iím not nervous about approaching him with the idea, but I am nervous about offending him with my terms.

    By way of background, my LCS is pretty small in terms of size, and is located in a fairly out-of-the-way location in a small and quiet community. It has been around for many years, but I canít imagine that the owner is getting rich off the business. Iíve never seen more than 5-6 other people in there at the same time, and there are many times when I go in that I am the only customer in the shop. Comics and trades seem to be their core business, but they also have RPG accessories and an RPG room, and sell a small selection of toys, statues, busts, etc.

    I would like to propose that he give me a 40% flat rate discount in exchange for a monthly pre-paid order of $60 minimum, but sometimes higher. Initially I was going to propose 35%, but this only slightly trims my savings from DCBS since (a) I donít have to pay taxes on my DCBS orders and (b) there are always a few titles that I get in my DCBS orders that are anywhere from 40-75% off. For a $60 order, paying sales tax on my comics at the LCS would be about half what I pay to DCBS in shipping, but it still eats away at the savings. Thus, I bumped my initial offer up to 40% from 35%.

    Am I asking too much? Is my head in the wrong place? Purely from a business standpoint, I am offering this guy 100% of my business whereas now he is getting 0%. Letís say heís only making 10% margin off of my purchases if he gives me a 40% discount Ė isnít that 10% of $60 better than 0% of $60, or does it create more trouble for him than it is worth? Plus, heís ordering inventory that he knows is going to move, as opposed to the possibility of having to stick them in the back issue bin where they will NEVER sell.

    Thanks for any advice anyone can offer.

  2. #2
    indie snob Brandon Hanvey's Avatar
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    If it is a small shop and he is getting his comics from Diamond, then he is most likely only getting around 40-35% off cover. So he would not be making that much money or breaking even with your proposal.

    There are shops out there that offer pull list discounts, but they tend to have larger number of customers so they can get bigger volume order discount from Diamond.

    My local shop offers 15% discount off all new comics. 20% off trade paperbacks, toys and some preorder items. You have to have at to subscribe to least 5 monthly titles and pick up your comics at least once a month.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brandon Hanvey View Post
    If it is a small shop and he is getting his comics from Diamond, then he is most likely only getting around 40-35% off cover. So he would not be making that much money or breaking even with your proposal.

    There are shops out there that offer pull list discounts, but they tend to have larger number of customers so they can get bigger volume order discount from Diamond.

    My local shop offers 15% discount off all new comics. 20% off trade paperbacks, toys and some preorder items. You have to have at to subscribe to least 5 monthly titles and pick up your comics at least once a month.
    Thanks for the big shop v. small shop perspective - that helps. With those discounts, do you bite the bullet and buy from your LCS, or do you shop at DCBS or another similar discount service?

    I'd consider taking a bit more of a price hit to shop at the LCS if I got something out of it besides the product, but I really don't. I like the shop owner and I want to support the local business, but the shop does not offer much more than that. His two employees are kind of Simpsons Comic Book Guy clones - sarcastic, sometimes condescending, and not really that helpful. So I'd pretty much be doing the switch out of the kindness of my heart if it's not going to benefit me financially.

    Anyone else have any thoughts on this? I'm kind of surprised at the lack of responses since I thought this would be a common issue for people.

  4. #4
    indie snob Brandon Hanvey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ConnHawk View Post
    Thanks for the big shop v. small shop perspective - that helps. With those discounts, do you bite the bullet and buy from your LCS, or do you shop at DCBS or another similar discount service?
    I don't buy that much new stuff now. Mostly a few indie/small press trades and graphic novels every so often. When I do, I tend to buy directly from the publisher at conventions or their online stores usually at cover price. That way I'm giving more profit directly to the publisher and/or creator.

    I mostly buy from Amazon when I want something that the publisher doesn't sell directly. I also pop into shops from time to time to browse the shelves.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by ConnHawk View Post
    I'd consider taking a bit more of a price hit to shop at the LCS if I got something out of it besides the product, but I really don't. I like the shop owner and I want to support the local business, but the shop does not offer much more than that. His two employees are kind of Simpsons Comic Book Guy clones - sarcastic, sometimes condescending, and not really that helpful. So I'd pretty much be doing the switch out of the kindness of my heart if it's not going to benefit me financially.

    Anyone else have any thoughts on this? I'm kind of surprised at the lack of responses since I thought this would be a common issue for people.
    You should count yourselves lucky none of the comic shops(with one exception) offer any discounts that I know of in the UK and that's only 10%. It used to the case they adjusted prices down with exchange rates but even that doesn't happen now.

    If I was served by comic book clones I wouldn't buy for love nor money even it meant not being able to get comics. That sort of behaviour just shouldn't be tolerated.

  6. #6
    Junior Member MikeCr's Avatar
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    First off, it's never wrong to ask so hopefully, if he's a reasonable guy, he won't be offended. (That's just bad business.)

    That said, if I ran that shop my answer would be to politely decline. He's almost certainly better served concentrating his business on growing his core customers who are willing to pay full retail price for the "comic shop experience" than spending a disproportionate amount of energy gaining your business for very little reward.

    What works for a big vendor like DCBS who have the volume and, more importantly, infrastructure to sell comics the way you want them probably doesn't work for him. While Brandon's estimates of his discount are probably more than a little low my rough back of the envelope math, even presuming a very generous discount, indicates that your $60 pre-order probably only equates to $15 of gross profit before all his other expenses. Why would anyone turn down a guaranteed $15 of gross profit you ask? Well, because now he has to track your order seperately and make sure that it's filled. What happens when there's late or cancelled books? Creative changes, price changes, or content changes? He'll very quickly be looking across orders from a variety of different months to even keep track of what you have and haven't received. DCBS is specifically set up to do that because that's their business model but it very likely isn't his. And that's before even taking into account the risk he's taking by allowing one customer a preferential deal. He could "be fair" and offer it to everyone but then he risks converting otherwise profitable customers into borderline or net negative customers (even if, at first glance, they still seem profitable).

    My advice: if you really want to help him out and be loyal because you appreciate his store just move your discretionary impulse purchases there. Since discount is obviously important to you keep using DCBS for the big "for sure" purchases you make each month but, when you feel like dropping by to check stuff out, always grab a book or two that you were on the fence about and couldn't commit to sight unseen. He'll probably actually make more net profit off of your business that way even if you're spending less total money in his shop because your business will already fit with his established business model. And you'll never end up resenting him because he's not willing (or completely unable) to offer the big discount that would get you to move all of your purchasing there.

    And please don't be offended by this! It's one of the trickiest things in modern (internet age) retail! Long story short: there's always someone out there willing to sell cheaper; even into negative profit! Smart retailers recognize that they can't compete on price anymore and concentrate on offering something different - community, knowledge, comfort, conveniece, whatever! - to make up for that. It's okay that you're a customer motivated primarily by price but, like I emphasize, that probably doesn't fit with what makes his business viable.
    ... and yet here I am arguing on the interwebs.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeCr View Post
    And please don't be offended by this! It's one of the trickiest things in modern (internet age) retail! Long story short: there's always someone out there willing to sell cheaper; even into negative profit! Smart retailers recognize that they can't compete on price anymore and concentrate on offering something different - community, knowledge, comfort, conveniece, whatever! - to make up for that. It's okay that you're a customer motivated primarily by price but, like I emphasize, that probably doesn't fit with what makes his business viable.
    Not offended at all, and I appreciate the thoughtful response. You make many good points, and I'm glad I sought out some advice before firing off my request to my LCS. I wrote it all out, and tinkered with it a bit, but I'm glad I sat on it. I don't want to put the guy in a bad spot and your business points make sense. The shopping I do at the store now is pretty much as you suggested - impulse buys, trips with my kids or whenever I have the itch for some instant comic gratification.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Blue Blazes's Avatar
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    My LCS offers a 10% discount for subscribers. I buy most of my new comics there and use amazon for hardcovers. although every so often he has a massive sale for subscribers, like buy 1 get 1 free or 30%+ discounts on most things in store (usually new and consignment items are not included). Recently i bought vol 1-4 hellboy library editions for $100 total and vol 1 and 2 of sin city library edition HCs for $200, when normally 150 each, so he gave me a good discount when a sale was not going on too.

    plus i like going in to hangout for an hour or so chatting after i bought stuff.

    as mentioned before, DCBS has a larger volume of comics, so theyll receive bigger discounts and turn around and sell them cheaper to you for probably the same profit a LCS would make at a 10% or so discount.
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  9. #9
    Junior Member 400yrs's Avatar
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    What happened with this proposal / deal?

    I can't imagine a shop taking that at 40% especially if it's a smaller shop. As mentioned, the margins just aren't there for the work that would be required and efforts by the shop would be better spent elsewhere.

    In addition, what if other longtime customers are there and then they see you get rung up at 40% off? How does he explain that to his other customers without pissing them off?

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeCr View Post
    My advice: if you really want to help him out and be loyal because you appreciate his store just move your discretionary impulse purchases there. Since discount is obviously important to you keep using DCBS for the big "for sure" purchases you make each month but, when you feel like dropping by to check stuff out, always grab a book or two that you were on the fence about and couldn't commit to sight unseen. He'll probably actually make more net profit off of your business that way even if you're spending less total money in his shop because your business will already fit with his established business model. And you'll never end up resenting him because he's not willing (or completely unable) to offer the big discount that would get you to move all of your purchasing there.

    This is what I do. I use DCBS for books that I know I'm getting and then occasionally go into the LCS and pick up a few books at cover price. I save money on stuff I know I'm getting but give a bit back to the local shops on impulse buys.
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