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December’s skip week: Who cares if you don’t get your comics?

With all the brouhaha about no new comics on 30 December, not many people are wondering what this will do to retailers. I’m here to correct that!

First of all, I got some more information about the skip week. In Brian’s post, he writes that it has to do with UPS’s schedule, but I’m not sure that’s true (okay, as I’ll point out, it’s partially true, but not completely). According to my retailer, UPS is working Christmas Eve (which is a Thursday) but NOT New Year’s Eve. So I wonder, if it’s UPS pulling the strings, why comics wouldn’t be delayed the week AFTER the one that is actually being skipped. Someone in the comments section blamed Diamond, and from what I’ve heard, that’s probably more on the money. Diamond pays their employees in hourly wages, so they just want to save some money and not pay them anything for that week, mainly because in order to get the books into stores on Wednesday 30 December, they’d have to change things around a bit, and God forbid they do that. I’ll explain.

Diamond gets the comics from the publishers on Fridays. They pack boxes over the weekend and ship them on Monday so the books can arrive on Wednesday (or Thursday if you’re all international and shit, but let’s not complicate this more than it needs to be). Therefore, UPS would only have to deliver books to them on Friday (which is Christmas, so that’s not going to happen) and pick them up on Monday, which is the 28th and therefore should be a work day. That’s the way it is. Of course, the way the holidays fall this year will screw it all up. UPS can’t deliver the books on Friday, and according to my retailer, they won’t deliver the books to Diamond on Saturday (I don’t know if this is true; the UPS web site doesn’t really specify, using “business days,” which may or may not include Saturdays). So if they follow the usual timeline, they wouldn’t deliver books for 30 December until Monday the 28th, and Diamond probably wouldn’t be ready to ship until the 30th itself. UPS isn’t working on the 31st or (presumably) the 1st, which is presumably the reason for skipping the week. It’s not necessarily UPS’s fault, because Diamond and the Big Two (who probably don’t care) could easily work out a solution. (I should point out that Christopher Butcher lets us know that this is the problem, according to Diamond’s press release.)

Diamond has an exclusive contract with Marvel and DC. They could (all of this is could; i.e., if Diamond had any inclination to do so) ask them to ship the books earlier, maybe even with the books for the 23rd. UPS could deliver them all on the Friday before (the 18th) and then, the following weekend, Diamond could pack the books for the 30th just like normal. Everything would be fine, and we wouldn’t be having heart palpitations about missing our comics. But Diamond won’t do this. Why? Because they’re trying to save money. They don’t want to pay their employees that weekend, and they don’t want to go out of their way to change their procedures. My retailer wondered if DC and Marvel could split the order on the week of the 23rd and ship them to the retailers on the 24th, meaning the comics would arrive in stores on the 28th. Diamond won’t do this, because they don’t want retailers putting out books before Wednesday. According to my retailer (who, admittedly, is a bit shaky on the legal side of his business), his contract with Diamond states he can’t put books out prior to Wednesday, and if the books get there on Monday, some unscrupulous retailers will put them out on Monday. I suppose that’s possible, but I know that Atomic Comics, the other retailer near my house, gets their books on Tuesday, and they don’t put them out until Wednesday. Diamond could bend their own rules in this instance, but they won’t.

Why does any of this matter? Well, readers can go jump in a lake. If you can’t go a week without your comics fix, you need some help. But let’s consider the retailers. Mike Sterling, retailer extraordinaire, wrote this about the skip week:

Bit of a shocker, there, and one I’m not entirely thrilled about. However, December does tend to be a strong month for sales, not to mention we’ll get that post-Christmas traffic from folks with gift money and gift certificates (the latter of which usually used to subsidize purchases of items far greater than the certificate’s value) … we should be able to ride out a week without new product. I’d rather have new product … even a minuscule amount of books, like we’ve received Christmases past, would be preferable to nothing at all. With any luck, this may not entirely be the disaster it sounds. I hope.

Now, if a world-famous retailer like Mr. Sterling is having a bit of anxiety about this, what hope do mortal retailers have???? The point is, most retailers make most of their money from new comics. The week between Christmas and New Year’s is, I would imagine, a busy one in the retail world, because kids are out of school and a lot of people take off from work. My retailer is planning on having a big sale, which he’s confident will recoup whatever money he’s going to lose from the loss of new comics sales. But in today’s economy, with bills to pay (evil utilities don’t care about religious holidays, man!), the loss of a huge chunk of income for retailers is nothing to sneeze at. Some people mentioned that it’s a fifth week, so it “doesn’t matter” if there’s a skip week, but DC and Marvel long ago stopped caring about the existence of fifth weeks. Comics no longer come out on a regular schedule (Fantastic Four always on the first week in a month, for instance), so fifth weeks are meaningless. Maybe the week after the 30th, the week will be gigantic and retailers can recoup losses, but that doesn’t help them the previous week, will it? It would be nice if DC and Marvel load up on the 23rd to maybe help retailers make more money to get them through the next week, but I don’t know if that’s their plan. Why should they care about retailers?

Now, I doubt if retailers are going to go out of business because of this. Many of them will probably have big sales, and that’s cool. Getting people into the stores is the issue, but that’s part of advertising, and retailers know they might have to get the word out occasionally without relying on their regulars. I just wanted to point out that this has nothing to do with you, the readers. Some people actually rely on comics, not for entertainment, but for their livelihood. Diamond, which has a relationship with the retailers, has decided not to make any effort to alleviate this situation. They could, but they won’t. My retailer hopes that enough of his ilk let them know that this isn’t a great business decision so that they rethink their decision. I can live without my comics that week. I just wanted to let you know that it’s not about us.

13 Comments

Yeah, my boss and I were talking about what we were going to do about this on Wednesday, and it looks like a big sale is the way we’re going to go. It’s going to be rough, since this is the first time in his 18 years as a retailer that there’s been this kind of week, but we’re not panicked.

I wonder if this gives the retailer who has a sale a new display area for sales items? My LCS has a particular rack where all the new books this week go. Maybe he’ll take that space and offer TPB or large dollar back issues? A theme day? The regulars will already know not to expect new books, and chances are we’ve been to the Boxing Day sale, but to get our fix, we come in looking for something different, and check the rack by force of habit.

As far as publishers go, scheduling on most books is regular enough that week 4 is week 4, regardless of the month. So not having a fifth week probably won’t make a difference; I suspect like June, though, you will see a huge increase on the 23rd, just to make quarter-end.

Cheers,

B

I usually skip comics Christmas week, since I’m traveling and spending time with my family. So I’ll just end up picking up the 23rd’s books on or about the 30th anyway.

Yeah.

As a fan I could/couldn’t care less. It’s not like I’m gonna walk into the comic shop and NOT have hell of things to buy.

But it does seem like a fairly crappy thing to do to retailers.

I’m not gonna be the first person to say this, nor the forty thousandth, but fuck Diamond.

UPS doesn’t make routine deliveries on Saturdays. They only do special Saturday delivers for which they charge an arm and a leg. I don’t believe FedEx does either. Just the USPS.

I get my comics monthly anyways, so this doesn’t affect me at all. BOOSH.

I don’t think most of us are concerned from a reader perspective, but again, from a retailer perspective. And it’s not a crisis moment but it is indicative of the kind of immaturity in the business of main stream comics. A business wants its product visible but often times when dealing with the Diamond/Publisher creature (and I’m sure it’s both) it seems as though they have an attitude of “fuck you, take what we give you.”

Not the reps, the customer reps do what they can. And I don’t think anyone actually thinks it…

They just act like it sometimes…

Diamond will do whatever it takes to destroy the comics industry.

My store is also pushing for a big sale week. Rather than complaining (because, as it seems, it won’t be changed regardless of how negative the buzz gets), we’re looking at it as an opportunity to solve our always-nagging backstock problem.

Wow!, a week without books. Whatever will people do??
I live 45 miles from the closest CBS and only go to pick up books every 3-4 weeks.
So a missed week means nothing to me.
On the retail sound of things this is a chance to give staff a day off or have a big ‘Clean up the Shop’ sale.

About every 6 weeks or so (including, as it happens, last week) I skip a trip to my LCS anyway, just because I don’t have enough titles I buy (&/or that I’m in a real hurry to read) coming in, plus about half the stuff I get I sub to through HeavyInk, so like more than one person here I’m not really affected.

(Indeed, on the off chance the post office holds up under the holiday rush, there’s every good chance I’ll get a nice HeavyInk package in the mail that week anyway … optimistically assuming that the economy hasn’t collapsed & spun the nation, or at least the industry, into a state of chaos that Mad Max would find daunting, or that I haven’t been hit by a truck or kidnapped by my creditors or whatever.)

But yeah, the possible impact on retailers having no new product in a week where people (a) are off school or work & more likely to swing by, or (b) have Xmas money burning holes in their pockets … that’s somewhat concerning.

Sounds like the guys who’ve mentioned plans for special sales are on the right track.

And it’s not a crisis moment but it is indicative of the kind of immaturity in the business of main stream comics.

Exactly. Retailers who run their businesses like grownups have nothing to worry about. This is a circumstance that is taking place in December. As I type this, it’s still August. Any other successful shop owner in any other business in the world understands that sometimes there are going to be slow sales periods and so on. Most adult businesses look at income on a monthly or quarterly basis anyway, and act accordingly. One would hope that the holiday shoppers a smart owner would be trying to lure into his shop for the month of December would spend enough to carry that owner one week.

But the catch is that said smart retailer has to be a grownup and run the comics shop like a real business and not as the thing that subsidizes his Heroclix habit. The guys that will be ‘hurt’ by this are the ones that can’t manage their money properly in any case.

Yeah, Diamond sucks, we all know it, but in this particular case I’m just not seeing the bad call. It’s a holiday week that pretty much any other business in America that’s not retail staffs light and lets people spend time with their families. Diamond isn’t retail, they aren’t dealing with ravening hordes of shoppers begging them to stay open late, and they’ll have shipped four weeks’ worth of comics in December already. (Which, as Greg points out, is a non-issue for scheduling but for an accountant four weeks’ worth of sales is a month.) There’s no there there.

The only reason this is a story at all is because a great many superhero fans are addicted to new books on Wednesday and a great many shop owners are former fans that don’t run their businesses like real store with real inventory stratesgy, marketing plans, and cash flow controls. . Which is more of an embarrassing commentary on the comics community than it is any kind of business-slash-financial issue.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

August 24, 2009 at 9:59 pm

Well, why doesn’t everyone go into their local shop and try something new that week?
I’ve always got something I’m meaning to pick up on a quiet week – a book I think might be good but don’t know, or something I like but just doesn’t grab me as much or as immediately as some other books do – I’ll probably just grab one of them.

a great many shop owners are former fans that don’t run their businesses like real store with real inventory stratesgy, marketing plans, and cash flow controls.

I dunno man, I was at EB yesterday as I thought the Batman game had come out because reviews were online, and the clerk was trying to convince me to pre-order them game, because it comes out on a Thursday – late night shopping – and due to lots of pre-orders and the late night shoppers, they probably won’t have any left by Saturday.
Now I just left, and he just wanted me to pre-order, but that just sounds like the worst run shop ever – they know the pre-sale numbers, they know it comes out on a night there will be a few shoppers about, just before a weekend… and yet he thinks there will be a shortage?
That’s just bad business.

And that’s at an international chain, not a sole trader… I’m not sure there is grown up businesses in this world anymore.

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