Traditionally the worst month for retail sales is February. People still have Christmas money (and gift cards) to spend in January and by March some people are starting to get their tax returns. But February is stuck right in the middle of a sales “No Man’s Land” and is the weakest month for most retailers.
For us, September has always been the month when sales take a sharp dive. Two factors figure into this, albeit in a roundabout way. First, the kids are back in school and although kids are not a significant percentage of our customer base, their parents are. Second, the East Texas State Fair happens here every September and it is a significant money drain. Truthfully, very few of our customers even go to the Fair, but it still affects the economy in this town. Bottom line is, September is the month that we try and prepare for, but never quite seem to handle as well as we would like.
So, it is interesting that DC Comics has chosen September as the month they try to win back lapsed readers with company wide events. In 2011 they launched The New 52. There was an avalanche of grumbling about how DC was “pissing on decades of continuity”, but when the books were actually launched, most of those complainers were silenced. The launch was a resounding success and the best thing to happen to our store in many years. One year later they suspended regular publication of their core “New 52” books and offered “Zero” issues of each title as a way to introduce even more people to their characters and new line of books. It, too, was a terrific idea and helped keep their momentum going.
This year, they are again suspending publication of their regular universe books and instead hosting “Villain’s Month”. For the entire month of September, the DC universe villains will headline the books instead of the regular heroes (i.e. Joker will take over Batman). To make the deal even more interesting to collectors, DC planned 3D motion covers on each of these books. They are using some new technology that involved a very long lead time, so long, in fact, that they had to set the print runs for these books well in advance of the time when they would actually see any retailer orders. They printed what they thought were generous amounts, but then the comic shop orders came in with much larger numbers than they predicted.
Some publishers (I’m not naming names here) would have just alerted the press that these books were going to be in short supply, let the market go crazy and then use the aftermath frenzy to pump sales of all their other books. DC, however, saw that there was going to be a shortage and so they immediately scheduled a regular cover edition of all these books. They are even going to get final allocation numbers to us BEFORE we have to order these regular cover editions so we can plan accordingly.
All of this boils down to one basic principle, which I’m sure I’ll elaborate on in future posts: DC genuinely treats the comic shops as partners in publishing. My store has often been accused of being a “DC store” as we tend to push their books over many of the other publishers (not Valiant, though. Valiant also rocks!). And why wouldn’t we? I cannot begin to tell you how differently DC and Marvel treat retailers. DC is supportive and responsive where Marvel is generally secretive and belligerent. However, my point of this post is not to trash Marvel so much as point out the help that DC has given its direct market accounts.
I still see a lot of suspicion and general hostility every time DC makes an announcement of some future event or company wide plan. Let’s face it, there is a large chunk of the comic fan base that will never be happy with anything they do (and you know who you are). I think DC realizes they will never be able to make everyone happy, but they are genuinely trying to do the right things to insure that the comic market remains healthy in the long term.
So if we are guilty of being a “DC Store”, so be it, because their goals and our are the same.