Saturday, December 31, 2005

Neptune says, "2005's a wrap"

So, here we are at the end of the year. Tomorrow will, ever so subtly, trumpet us into a new year. This is the time when people make resolutions to change or improve themselves or their lives. It is also the time when people look back on the year, and make predictions about the next. I figured, sine I have a bit of time right now, I would do a bit of that here.

In 2005 we saw great growth in the store from the year previous, which of course should happen when a store goes from its first year into its second. We had lots of new customers come in, and saw a few folks leave too. Our lease at this location was renewed for another 3 years, even though there is still that pesky leak in the ceiling. We put in new shelves this spring, that let us display all of our comics and graphic novels face front, which is a HUGE improvement over what we had before – well worth giving up my Easter vacation to put them in. I went along with the bus group to Wizard World, which was LOTS of fun, and Craig and I attended a very informative Retailer Summit in October. All of us saw mutants loose their powers and Earth 2 Superman return. All in all, I’d say it was a good year. Sure, there were some downs among the ups, but we really feel like we did a lot of things right this year.

2005 wasn’t easy for everyone. In April a comic book store in Pewaukee went out of business and a short time later a game store in Muskego closed down. Another game store, this one in West Allis, closed up in October. And, I have heard a wide variety of versions of stories about the other comic book store in Waukesha possibly closing or undergoing big changes (the stories are so varied that I can’t believe anything until I actually see it for myself). Other stores are struggling financially. With rising costs of gas, causing costs of products to increase, and the widespread growth of online discount stores, it becomes harder and harder to run a brick-and-mortar shop like ours, especially if you are unwilling to diversify and to adapt to industry changes.

We hope that in 2006 we continue to grow our customer base and that more and more people find out how cool comics are. Both Superman and X-Men movies are scheduled to come out next year, and I know we will do an in-store event for at least one of those. We will participate in Free Comic Book Day again—that’s one of my favorite days of the whole year. We are considering enlarging our current location, and have started to seriously discuss our plans for Neptune Comics #2—that’s right, a second location could sprout up before 2006 is over—you heard it here first. If it doesn’t happen in ’06 it will happen in early ’07, unless something HORRIBLE happens along the way. With all of that, we will have to hire an employee or two. I am looking forward to that—getting a bit of time off and being able to go to more comic events like retailer meetings and conventions. We hope to have an in-store signing or two, but those details have not been worked out yet. Our goals are high—we hope to continue to grow at our current location as well begin a new one, all without going bankrupt in the process. There isn’t a lot of profit in this business (unlike some other types of retail) and we compete with some “big guys” on a lot of items (Toys R Us and Wal Mart for example), and sometimes a good day just bails us out of a bad day. But we really believe that both the comic book and game industry will bounce back eventually, and if we can ride it out and grow now, we will really be doing well when that happens.
In terms of the comic book industry, I predict that Superman and X-Men will generate a lot of hype and bring new people into our fold. I think that DC will get their books back on schedule so that they can pull off the One Year Later series (if they can’t I think they take a BIG risk of loosing LOTS of fans of single issue comics). I think Marvel will continue to have late books, but I also believe that they will improve their current books, bringing more people into books that were dying in 2005—Incredible Hulk for example. I think that Diamond’s new policy will push a lot of independent publishers out, and the “indie” comic book will have a hard time ahead. However, those loyal to the indies will find them on-line in web comics, which I think are going to start to be recognized more in 2006. I also think that the indies will start a trend towards folks publishing their work directly to graphic novel rather than single issues first.

So, now it’s just about time for us to close down for the day. I will return again next year. Happy New Year to all of you who take the time to read this!

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