How comic speculation is bad for comic book retailers.

So you're doing your research, listening to those in the know, watching for first appearances and what books are selling for on eBay.  You're checking websites and getting your route set on how to hit all the local comic book shops when they open so you can get the hottest books at cover price and flip them to make some cash.  Why should comic book retailers complain when you're helping them by spending a lot of money in their store, right? Let's take a moment to take a closer look and perhaps see things from a different point of view even though I know that this topic will certainly generate some backlash.

Comic book retailers have to place their orders for product based on the same solicitation that the public sees, but 2 months prior to the issue being available for sale.  We have to base our orders on not only our regular customers, that supply us with what titles they want in advance, but also by how many copies we think we will sell off the shelf, or want to keep in our back stock. For those of you that aren't aware of how this works, every single issue that a comic book retailer purchases is for the most part, non-returnable. So if we spend $200 on the newest issue of Amazing Spider-Man but only sell 10 copies at $3.99 each, even though we have copies left, we still have spent $160.10 more than what we made.  This concept is what keeps stores from over ordering, as ultimately at the end of the day while having back stock is great, it does take up both room and liquid capital. This is the same idea which keeps retailers from just ordering hundreds (or even dozens) of copies in hopes they will be worth more than cover price one day.

So, again, you say "so why is it bad for retailers if I come in and buy all the rest of the Amazing Spider-Man comics? Isn't that making them money?" and the short answer is yes, it is.  You are 100% correct on that, but in this case, speculators are not buying a bunch of product that is sitting on the retailer's shelf, but instead are looking to buy all of the copies of the one title that is super hot that week. In this situation, what happens if unchecked, is that one person all of a sudden ends up with all the copies of the comic book in question, Amazing Spider-Man in this example, to resell them at a higher price online. While the retailer does make his money on these books, he all of a sudden has to turn away all the other customers that come in looking for that book. So, one customer is happy and all the rest leave without that comic.  If you're that customer who lost out, and it happens to you multiple times, many times the customer ends up just not going back to that store, meaning a lost customer.

What's the solution for retailers then? Raise the price to match, or come close to the eBay pricing? This gets so much negative feedback on a regular basis even though the market is bearing the higher price. Limit the sale of comics to "X" number of copies per customer? Then the negative feedback from the speculators comes flooding in. While the second seems to be the best solution to spread the comics to the most number of customers, speculators still say that they should be able to buy as many as they like because they are keeping the store open with how much they spend. The reason why that thought process is faulty, however, is that when a book is that hot, a retailer is likely going to sell the same number of books, just to more people. So if a retailer can make one sale and turn away 20 people, or make 21 sales and have one customer complain, which makes more sense to a retailer? 20 customers perhaps not making a purchase at all and one coming back only to ever buy the hottest books, or 20 customers excited that they found a hard to get book and one customer who will likely make the purchase even with the limit. 

Do we have a dog in this race? Yes, of course we do. Obviously all retailers are in the business to make money, and yes, the best way to do that is to have happy customers. If more customers placed orders in time for us to adjust our orders, then we could supply as many comic books to as many people that wanted them. If you would tell me you wanted 25 copies of every #1 published by Scout Comics, any retailer, including us, would be happy to place those orders for you. But when you come in on the day of release wanting all of our copies of the hottest book at cover price, and we don't make you that sale, please understand that it's simply not about a retailer wanting to sell at eBay pricing, but that it's about customer service, doing what's best for the business and honestly, making the comic community a better place.  By no means am I saying that people don't have the right to speculate on comic books, nor am I really saying anything negative here about what people do in general. All I am saying is that the current speculation in the comic book industry certainly has opened up a whole new set of problems for retailers and navigating a business through them is not the easiest thing to do. The world is becoming an ever increasingly smaller place and how we create and feed our local comic book community will determine how long we last, how much the community will grow and what kind of collectors we become.

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