While some retailers said that they've seen many stores in their area close down and that they have seen and felt the impact of today's more cautious buyer, many others seemed to express little concern about how today's economy will impact tomorrow's comic book sales.
Overall comic book sales have risen in the last 10 years, based upon Diamond's sales reports. Nothing huge, but still mainly an upward trend. But, one might note that the economy, aside from the impact of the terrorist attacks on 9/11/01, had been growing fairly well until recently.
You will also note that in her column Rogers reports, based on her research, that Americans are more pessimistic about the economy than they have been in the last 15 years. Gas prices grow every day, the cost of food is increasing, the price of many things has gone up. Except the price of homes - that market has been hit hard, and many people, during the years where the price of homes continued to plow forward, invested in the housing market, thinking it would provide better returns than stocks or bonds. Many of those people are hurting now, unable to sell the homes and cash out and not seeing any appreciation in their real estate investment. The fact that this is also a presidential election year impacts the economy too, since historically the economy stagnates and the media tries to whip people into a deep depression before everyone heads off to the polls.
At Neptune we have not seen the growth we did the first four years of business this year. I am sure there are a couple of major reasons for that. One is that we are now a "mature" store, and just won't see the kind of growth that a new, growing store sees. The other is the economic impact. People do have to cut back on things when the price of food and gas go up. But, this is not to say that we've seen a decrease. We have not. People continue to come into the store every day and purchase comics, graphic novels, games and other items. As a few retailers point out in Roger's column, during times like these, where people tend to feel depressed, they often reach out to forms of entertainment they enjoy to serve as a distraction from the realities of their daily lives. Video game sales continue to grow. Movie theaters continue to have hundreds of millions of dollars in ticket sales every weekend. People continue to spend money on things they enjoy. However, they do tend to cut back on "luxury" items. Maybe they don't buy that $200 statue. Or perhaps they eliminate buying comic book mini-series and just do the main titles. Or they only purchase 12 booster packs of Magic or Yu-Gi-Oh instead of the full box they usually buy. Maybe the back issue and low-price bins and racks get much more action than they used to, as people look for bargains.
We as retailers need to face this economy head on and be prepared to make adjustments as the market changes. Keeping track of sales trends with a computerized system is essential. Being prepared to advertise more, even in just a low-cost way, is also essential - because as existing customers start to cut back stores need to bring in new readers. Marketing is important too - finding ways to reach out to customers and potential customers and showing them what fun they can have with games and comics is important.
I would rather, as a store owner, have customers cut back rather than find themselves so financially tapped that they have to stop coming in altogether. Balance and budgeting are always important - I talk to people about this every day at the bank.
So, what are YOU doing now, during this economic slump? Are you cutting back? Have you seen the economy impact your job? Are you going to cut back on the comics you purchase?