Tuesday, January 03, 2006

What's that smell? Not business scents!

or sense...Pardon my title pun... but some people run a business like I spell.

One thing that happens in the comic book industry is that “fan boys” decide to open a store. It is how they grow their collection and find friends of the same interest. This sort of thing happened less now, after the “late 90’s shake out.” But it still does happen. But there are business people, entrepreneurs if you will, like Craig and me, who look at it not as our hobby, but as a business. Sure, we enjoy reading the comic books, but our main purpose is to have a good business, not a good collection.

Why do I bring this up? Because, I am frustrated with the complete lack of business sense of some of the other places around. I am sure I mentioned how one store (although I am sure there are more), pays its employees “under the table.” He’d better hope the IRS doesn’t discover it! I know that as much as I think he deserves to have the IRS come down on him, I also figure it will put up a red flag and they’ll check the rest of us out too. Now, we run this operation by the book, because frankly we can’t afford not to. So, it’s not that we’re worried about being busted for something. It is just the inconvenience of having to deal with it.

A store around here, the same guy as above in fact, really has me confounded. His employees went around to a couple of other comic book stores saying, “Neptune won.” And letting them know their store was closing down after 1/1/06. Some of the customers from that store have brought in order sheets to start subscription services here. They were told that he was closing the store, but he’d still get them their comics. He told one of the game distributors that he was closing the store out here, but continuing his business in the Milwaukee area. He told a customer of both of ours who buys Yu-Gi-Oh that he was closing this location but opening near buy on South street. He told another kid that he was going to have a $1 store in the space, but he’d still have the comics in a small portion. All I know is he was still open at that location yesterday, so he is not closed. There was not a sign reading “going out of business” either – so if he is closing there is no sign of it. Yet, some of his customers have been told it and have started to shop here. So, if he is staying open, why tell paying customers you aren’t? Why so many different stories on locations? If you are going out of business, have a big sale so you can at least get some cash out of it, and go. If you are not, then let people know where they can find you and when. This is just the strangest way to run a business!

One of the Milwaukee stores is holding an “illegal” contest. Clearly no one there thought to call the lottery commission before designing their “buy X and get an entry to win Y” contest they’re having this weekend. But, I can tell you, it’s against the law. We called the state when we wanted to do something similar and they set us straight, so we reworked the contest. Basically you cannot, in this state, require purchase in order to get a chance to win an item. You can have people come in the store, even on a specific day and time, in order to enter. You can have EVERYONE who buys X get a free Y with purchase. But you CANNOT legally make someone buy X to get a chance to win Y. That’s a lottery and the state won’t allow it. Of course they’ll get away with it. Just like they get away with demanding a minimum for credit card purchases, even though when the merchant agreement with MasterCard is signed it is stated that merchants cannot do this. Again, a business skating on thin ice. And they’ve been around long enough to know better. I am sure if they see this they'll show customers how I bad mouthed them, but all it does is show people that their contest is illegal and they didn't take the time to check it out.

Then there’s the deep discounters. Wonder why stores are in ramshackle locations? Why they can’t seem to get ahead, despite all of their efforts to keep costs down? It’s because they discount. There are a couple of stores that pool their orders together, again this is in violation of agreements with distributors, in order to get a better discount overall. They MIGHT get an extra 2%-3%. I’m not kidding! All of the deception for that little bit of benefit, and then they will turn around and offer 20% or more off of everything. How’s that for penny wise and dollar foolish? It used to be that comic book stores could discount new stuff and still make tons of money on back issues and “hot” new books. However, that market is dwindling, and as it does so does that source of money for these stores. But once you give a discount, it’s tough to take it back without loosing people. When we opened our store we went against one of these discounters, and you know what, we’re doing well here. It turns out that people would rather shop at a place that gets their orders right, has their stuff in when they come in, carries a good selection of new books on new book day… Sure, he’s got his loyal folks, but you know what, so do we. And from what it sounds like, we’re going to flourish while he decides if he’s closing or moving or what.

What the area needs are more comic book stores run like a real business. That honesty and hard work shows, and people are drawn to it. When you run the place like it’s a hobby, or like you just don’t care, then that shows too, and it makes us all look bad and we ALL lose potential customers because of it. Seriously, take a business class – they offer them all the time at the local university extensions, and the SBA and WWBIC offer them too. Even a simple accounting lesson might help-IRA rules 101. But I guess if you don't care about your business you wouldn't take the time anyway.

1 comment:

Kevin S. said...

I have heard a lot of rumors about what you said about local area comic book stores from other students at school. Personaly, part of the reason I like coming to Neptune Comics it is clean and tidy (some other local stores look like the employee's basement) and the people are friendly. We had a bad experance at another local store, a few years (about four years ago, I think) back, my mom went into one and tried to buy some old Spider-Man back issue for me, and she knew exactly what she wanted but had to wait for the employee and his buddy to finish their disucssion of Xena Warrior Princess and their lunch before she could be helpped). When they finally helpped her, they guy tried to pawn off the wrong issue on her. (I made sure she was well informed on what the issue looked like, I e-mailed pics from the internet) Finally, when she found the right one, the guy told her that the price on the cover was old and that was actually three dollars more that what the price tag said, despite being over three years old and not any importance (no main characters died or no famous villians showed up) it was marked up from the cover price. My mom ended up buying it, but she said she never wanted to go in there again, so I ended up buying my comics back at Barns and Noble, usally with their rotating comic book selection, and the employee's confusion at what I ask for (hey, at least they're friendly and will not make me wait until they finish their lunch).

So, I was delighted when a new comic book store opened that was nice and was on my way home from school.