Starting in January 2011, accounts serviced by Diamond Comics Distributors will be able to get comics and graphic novels delivered to stores on Tuesday for a Wednesday on sale date, in line with other industries that have street dates.
Comics shops have traditionally received their weekly deliveries on Wednesday, which is also the on-sale day. The new policy means that comics shops will no longer have to scramble to get shipments ready for sale on Wednesday mornings as customers stream in for their weekly comics haul, a practice that was exhausting and chaotic for many retailers. Retailers who wish to continue to receive their shipments on Wednesday can do so.
This "street dates" idea had been resisted by Diamond and publishers for many years because of fears that retailers would jump the gun and sell the comics available early. But larger stores with multiple outlets had already been getting Tuesday deliveries. And experiments with streets dates for such hot ticket items as Blackest Night #6 and Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour showed that retailers were overwhelmingly sticking to the rules.
At a Diamond retailer meeting early this year at the new C2E2 show in Chicago, the idea of moving to Tuesday as the day for new comics was raised. But a survey of retailers revealed that the idea of sticking with Wednesday as New Comics Day had the most support, while the move to street dates was seen to be of greatest benefit.
“Of more than 1,000 retailers who responded to the survey,” Diamond Vice President of Sales & Marketing Roger Fletcher said, “75% believe day-early delivery will benefit their business, while 72% believe it will benefit the entire Direct Market.”
“The number of respondents who selected Tuesday delivery for Wednesday on-sale and the ‘Either’ option totaled 63%,” Fletcher continued, “while those selecting the Monday-for-Tuesday alternative and the ‘Either’ option totaled 38%. This encouraging consensus has convinced us that moving forward with day-early delivery for Wednesday on-sale holds considerable advantages for vendors, retailers, and the industry.”
Retailers hailed the move as the lifting of a huge administrative burden. "This is probably the best news of all year," said Brian Hibbs of Comix Experience in San Francisco.
Greg Thomson of Local Heroes in Norfolk Va. agreed. "This is fantastic news and I can't wait to opt in. From reduction in Wednesday stress, more knowledge of the week's comics when we open and customers being able to walk in the door and not find the place in disarray—what's not to love? I'm just sad it took this long."
"I am very happy that we'll have the option for day-early shipping from Diamond in 2011," said Chapel Hill Comics' Andrew Neal. "Chapel Hill Comics will definitely opt in, as the ability to process the week's shipment over the course of a normal business day—as opposed to rushing through the task before store hours on Wednesday morning—will be an enormous help. If this change goes through as intended, it will eliminate the single most disruptive and stressful event in my week."
The move is another step in recognizing the growing professionalism of comics shops overall, said Chris Powell of Lone Star Comics in Texas. "This should result in our industry presenting an even more organized, professional experience for consumers, which can only help." Instead of rushing to get books on sale then reading them, store personnel can read the books ahead of time and be more knowledgeable in directing customers to titles they might like.
However fears of embargo breaking aren't entirely absent. Diamond plans to create a "mystery shopper" program to inspect stores to make sure they aren't selling titles early. The exact implementation, and whether and how much retailers would be charged to subsidize the program, is still under review.