Diamond’s new point-of-sale (POS) software may just be the biggest revolution in comics retailing since Marvel editor Carol Kalish helped subsidize comics shops buyingcash registers back in the early ‘90s. Or at least that was the word on the floor at the first day of the 2007 Retailer Summit in Baltimore, an annual gathering of comics shop retailers organized by Diamond Comics Distributors, the dominant distributor to comics shops.
Diamond presented its new Comics Suite software at an afternoon seminar. The new system allows comics shops—many of which do not use computerized inventory systems and rely on paper and pencil cycle sheets—to use barcode scanning to automate inventory control, sales and reorder activity.
Store owners surveyed by PWCW were cautiously enthusiastic about the new system—although it is expensive, Diamond is making it affordable for as many shops as possible by offering an 18-month interest-free loan to purchase both the software and hardware, if necessary. It’s an offer that many retailers found tempting. “We’re going to have to give it a very serious look,” said Katie Merritt of Green Brain in Dearborn, Mich., echoing the thoughts of many retailers. While almost everyone is in favor of computerizing sales information, the devil is in the details—the system is expensive, and some shops have problems with the Microsoft software itself.
While there may have been some disagreement over the exact platform, everyone agrees that putting a real POS system in place will save time and give shops more information to make informed purchases, and eventually supply more accurate sales tracking, although sharing sales information is a sensitive issue for many stores. As for publishers, Diamond is paving the way for future scanners in shops by requiring all the products it carries to have barcodes and UPC information by January of next year.
The annual Retailer Summit drew several hundred retailers from around the U.S., and kicked off following the Baltimore Comic-Con, held last weekend. The summit started with a 25th anniversary party for Diamond held at Diamond owner Steve Geppi’s Entertainment Museum. The lavish museum displays—including such gems as a mint condition Action #1 (marking the first appearance of Superman) and the first Terry and the Pirates strip—were an impressive and inspiring way to start two days of intensive talk over how to sell more comics.
Monday saw presentations from publisher and game manufacturers, including WizKids, Wizards of the Coast, Dark Horse, DC and Marvel. Dark Horse announced an Indiana Jones Omnibus edition, which will reprint much old Marvel material and some new books to tie in with the upcoming movie release. The publisher also touted Gerard Way’s Umbrella Academy and Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Joss Whedon, which has been a sales smash since Season 8 debuted earlier this year (although there was some retailer grumbling about availability of the Buffy Omnibus). Whedon will continue to write story arcs for the regular series as well as play the role of “show runner,” while writers Brian K. Vaughan and Lost and Buffy TV show writer Drew Goddard write other arcs. DH also announced a major push for Mike Mignola’s Hellboy to tie in with next year’s Hellboy 2 film.
Virgin Comics brought along writer Garth Ennis to tout his upcoming Dan Dare series with artist Gary Erskine. An institution in England, the character is little known in the U.S., but the popular Ennis hopes to present a classic story of adventure with up-to-date political overtones to capture some interest. Virgin also announced the continuation of its line of celebrity-driven comics, including a sci-fi story written by Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran.
Marvel v-p of sales David Gabriel and assistant manager of sales communication Jim McCann teased several major developments for 2008 including the end of the X-Men as a team in a story line known as “X-Men Disassembled” and a Red Hulk story written by Jeph Loeb with art by Ed McGuinness. “Secret Invasion,” a major story line involving the shape-shifting Skrulls, was also teased with the idea that several major Marvel characters who have been acting oddly of late will be revealed to be Skrulls in the coming year. The tag line: “Who can you trust?” A second Dark Tower series based on Stephen King’s characters is also in the works for 2008.
DC’s presentation was upstaged by a brief celebration of its v-p of sales Bob Wayne’s 20th anniversary with the company, including a parade of old photos. The salute earned a standing ovation from the crowd. Most of DC’s news had been covered at over the weekend at Baltimore Comic-Con, including the return of Jim Shooter on Legion of Superheroes and a book collecting the Heroes Web comics for November. Wayne mentioned a deluxe 20th anniversary edition of The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland. The story pairs with next year’s Dark Knight Batman film—both tales star the Joker—and the deluxe hardcover will be recolored and include never-before-seen background art.
Earlier in the day, the “Satisfying Your Customers’ Yen for Manga” panel featured manga publishers in a wide-ranging discussion with retailers. Although such problems as keeping volume ones in stock and getting accurate information on a title’s age ratings and audience still exist, manga can still make money even for stores that don’t specialize in it. As panelist John Wagenski from Lost Worlds of Wonder, Milwaukee, Wis., put it, “If you start carrying manga, you can make money selling it.”