ComicsPRO in Memphis: A look back, a look ahead
Flying Colors Comics
The last official event at ComicsPRO’s Annual Members Meeting was the Saturday night tour of Diamond’s new mega-hub distribution facility in Olive Branch MS and the BBQ dinner that followed. I was seated at a table with retailer Ed Greenberg of Collector's Paradise in Winnetka CA, BOOM Studios publisher Ross Richie and CBLDF director Charles Brownstein.
Charles asked a simple question that required more thought than I could really muster at that point, but I told him a few rambling things. The next day, flying back from Memphis TN to Oakland CA, I jotted down these thoughts, expanding on Charles original question (the first one below).
What are the two most important things I’ll remember from this event?
1) The specialty business of comics is on a solid foundation. With much of other traditional publishing industry experiencing game-changing downturns, the periodical-to-book format model is still a profitable one, especially for our larger suppliers. This places my concern for the "threat or menace" of digital publishing into a much less alarming spot.
Couple that with the realization that our base of readers (buyers, collectors, consumers, fans, use whatever positive term you like) is very dedicated. Comic book lovers---and I happily include myself in that category--- continue to keep printed comics and books in their media diets, even when there are so many other choices and delivery systems.
Market research has shown that many regular comic book readers are also "early adopters", those who want to be the first to buy into new technologies. One of the keys to helping our industry find new consumers for what we make and sell is to better understand what makes early adopters still eager to embrace the "old" medium of printed comic books.
2) The huge task Diamond has with its operations. After seeing their 600,000 square foot facility, I came away impressed with the company’s desire to make things run smoother than ever before. The transition pains are still there, but there is much light at the end of the warehouse (which was way too far for me to go and find!).
Two biggest challenges for ComicsPRO?
1) Getting the message out to every dedicated professional retailer that ComicsPRO membership has the internal strength and resolve to make it work where other comic retailer trade groups previously came up short. Tied with that is showing otherwise non-joiner types among our retailer colleagues that there is substantial value by investing in a ComicsPRO membership.
2) Continuing to meet the three main objectives we’ve laid out since Day One. First, to be the united voice of the professional comic specialty retailer. Also, to help mentor new and prospective specialty retailers and give continuing education to current retailers. And to grow the overall size of the market for all comics-related material to keep this a vital and profitable venture for our member retailers.
Two most important ‘take-aways’ for retailers from this event?
1) The move to Point-of-Sale (POS) by so many retailers is a move away from unnecessary risk. It’s also a move to better information that can be channeled to fuel a lasting healthy comic specialty market.
2) The openness of our suppliers to help ComicsPRO grow. All of the company execs we talked with in Memphis want ComicsPRO to be a viable and positive force for specialty retailers because it will help the entire market with better information, better promotional opportunities and more direct feedback from professional comic book retailers.
Two thoughts after the meeting related to the future of ComicsPRO?
1) The need for all members to pitch in with some volunteer hours. ComicsPRO will go as far as our membership is willing to take us. Committee assignments can’t die at the Memphis Hilton check-out desk. Attending retailers were almost unanimous in their response to give a couple of hours a week to making ComicsPRO better--- that volunteerism, if maintained, would be like adding two or three more full-time staff members to the organization.
2) There is strength and stability in ComicsPRO. Our organization has continued to grow during the last year, with lots more room for additional growth. More than that, ComicsPRO is providing a true business forum for professional comic specialty retailers. Our benefits continue to give real value to our members, which will hopefully spur more retailers to join.
ComicsPRO already has an important voice--- it’s the fiercely independent voice of the professional comic book retailer. ComicsPRO has a knowledge and skill base that should keep us growing and vital for years to come.
If you have already joined ComicsPRO--- thank you for your support!
If you haven't joined, get with it, 'cause we're not going away! Membership applications can be downloaded HERE!
Peace & Success!