|Written by Chris Fluit
|Friday, 17 August 2007
It is a fact of my life that I moved a lot. I’ve lived in two
provinces and two states across three time zones in two different
countries. I once moved ten times in the span of eight years. I’ll be moving again some time soon. If I’m not an expert
at moving, I’m at least a veteran. When you’re going to move, you look
at the most important things first. You consider where you’re going to
work. You consider where you’re going to live. But after those big
things are taken care of, you also look at the little things. You check
out the grocery stores, the libraries and the public parks. And if
you’re someone like me, you check out the local comic book stores.
I haven’t been into comic books my whole life, but I’ve been a collector long enough that I now have some opinions on what I want a store to be like. These are some of the things I’m looking for when I look at a store:COMFORT: This is a big one. It didn’t mean as much when I was younger (not that I’m all that old now). It used to be that I didn’t mind climbing over boxes on the floor in order to get to the comics I wanted. But over the years, this has come to mean more and more to me. I don’t want to have to push past an over-flowing garbage can in order to get to the cash register (a real example, by the way). I don’t want to have to shoo your cat away in order to look at back issues (another real example). I want to be able to walk around the store, just as if I was at the hardware store or the paper store. I want to be comfortable when I’m buying my comics.
Plus, nowadays, I’m looking out for more than my own comfort. Is this a store where I’ll feel comfortable bringing my wife? Is this a store where I’ll feel comfortable bringing my daughters? I want to know that I’ll be able to bring my family into the store without having to worry that my girls might knock something over. I don’t want to bring my wife into a place where she’ll feel uncomfortable because of enclosed spaces (another real example) or potentially offensive materials. My daughters can be pretty sensitive. They know when they’ve entered a place where they’re not welcome. And frankly, I don’t want them to have that kind of an experience at a comic book store. I want them to be as comfortable as I am.
ORGANIZATION: Next up, I want a store to have a semblance of organization. I want to be able to find what I’m looking for. You’d be amazed at how many stores fail on this basic consideration. I understand that a lot of stores want to put their new comics in the back so that you have to walk past everything else in order to get to them. It’s the same reason why most grocery stores put staples like bread and milk in the back. But the grocery store clearly labels the bakery or the dairy section. I don’t mind walking to the back of the store. I just want you to give me a big ol’ sign telling me that I’m going to have to do it. I don’t want to spend 10 minutes wandering around the store aimlessly until I happen to stumble onto the new comics.
Organization goes hand in hand with comfort. If I can’t find what I’m looking for, whether it’s new comics or back issues or trades, then I’m not going to enjoy my shopping experience. And if I’m not enjoying my shopping experience, there’s always the chance that I’ll come less often (which means less money for the store) or go some place else (which means no money for the store). Honestly, it’s in your best interest as a store to make sure that I and every other customer can easily move about the store and find what we’re looking for.
CUSTOMER SERVICE: I think I’m actually pretty easy to please on this one. I don’t expect everyone working behind the counter to know more about comics than I do. After all, I know quite a bit. And I don’t expect that every store owner or clerk becomes a friend with whom I can talk comics (though that’s a great bonus when it happens). What I am looking for is the feeling that my business is wanted and appreciated. That means that my purchase is more important than your next move in Warcraft (another real example). Go ahead and put down your dice so that you can come and collect money from me. That also means that you’re willing to help me find something. It means you’re willing to special order something for me if you don’t have it stock. These seem like some pretty basic conditions, yet you’d surprised at how many stores fall short of doing these things.
This also means that I want a store to show that they want my repeat business. Most stores offer a pull list. Good. I can’t make it to the store every week so that’s something I’m interested in. I don’t mind playing by whatever rules they set for it such as purchases must be made at least once a month. But if you’re going to have rules that help you out as a business, also have some rules that help me out as a customer. Most stores pass along a discount to their regular customers, offering 10 or 15% off. If you’re not willing to do that, at least give me some financial incentive to come back to your store instead of going to someone else’s. I used to work in a restaurant. We had lunch punch cards for regular customers. Pay for 10 meals and the next lunch is on us. Go ahead and do something like that. Give me a $5 coupon every time I spend $50. But do something. Show me in some way that you want me to come back as a regular customer. If you’re not willing to give me an incentive, there are plenty of places that will even if that means turning to mail-order or going on-line. I’d rather not do that. I enjoy the physical act of going to the comic book store. But I’m not going to waste my money or my time at a place that doesn’t value me as a customer.
SELECTION: I realize that no store can carry every single comic book. You’ll go out of business for even trying. Yet one of the things that I am evaluating is selection. I buy mostly Marvel and DC, but not entirely. So I like the check out a store’s selection of other titles and other companies. Can I buy my Dark Horse and Image titles here? Am I going to be able to find an independent comic even if I didn’t pre-order it? What else do you carry?
Also, there’s another way to look at this concern of selection: do you have comics I can buy for my kids? I like to see a kids section. I like to know that my girls will be able to find some comics they want on the shelf. I’m not the kind of person that insists that every comic has to be for kids. But I do think that some comics should be for kids. And that is something I’m looking for when I’m looking at a new store. Give me some variety: a variety of comics for a variety of ages.
It’s not a full acrostic. I’m missing the “MI” in the middle. But that’s what I’m looking for in a store: Comfort, Organization, Customer service and Selection. If you give me those things, then I’ll gladly give you my business.
Photos are from 3 great stores: The Secret Headquarters owned by Legionnaire Dagwan in Tallahassee,FL, Comic Readers , Medicine Hat, AB owned by the always nice Brett Beattie and Joe Field's Flying Colors Comics in Concord, CA.
|Last Updated ( Thursday, 16 August 2007 )