Diamond Comics, a North American and global distributor supplying local comic book stores with their products, recently stopped receiving new issues from publishers and also halted shipments to retailers due to risks of spreading coronavirus.
This supply chain disruption is adding major challenges to comic book retailers that were already struggling with digital disruption before the pandemic exploded and forced them to shorten hours to reduce human contact.
All About Books and Comics recently announced it would be closing in April, but ended up closing up shop for good early on March 22 with retail shops around the world faced with the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.
“A lot of people slamming Diamond Comics lately, but they really stepped up for us this week,” said Mike Banks, owner of Phoenix’s Samurai Comics. “With All About (Books and Comics) closing earlier than expected, there was going to be a huge shortage of comics for their customers this week. Diamond was able to work behind the scenes to get All About’s last shipment redirected to us so we would have stock on hand to cover those orphaned customers.”
Banks said he had trimmed service hours at his three Valley stores and may have to look at doing so again with no new comics shipments on the horizon. In addition to measures like social distancing and frequent cleaning and hand sanitizer use, Samurai Comics added curbside service and online payment with ComicHub, Banks said. “We even have some customers who are paying for their books to help us out, but electing to wait to come pick them up when the crisis has abated,” he said.
(Edit: With Arizona stay-at-home orders effective at the end of March, now Samurai is serving its customers by deliveries only until further notice.)
The distributors are doing what they can to balance health concerns and the needs of local comics book stores, Banks said.
“There are so many people behind the scenes at the distributor and publisher level that are just as passionate about the industry as those of us in the trenches,” he said. “The lack of news can be frustrating but I have faith that those people are working hard behind the scenes to help us retailers emerge from this crisis still in business.”
For his part, Banks said Samurai’s Facebook Live sales, started long before the pandemic, have been expanded.
“We will feature lots of great books and games, so stuff you can use while stuck at home (for those of you with kids it’ll be like a virtual Scholastic Book Fair when we showcase our all-ages and young adult section,” he said. He is also starting to sell online gift certificates and grab bags to offer new ways to support the store, and will explore launching a local mobile comics delivery service like Drawn to Comics has done if there is a mandatory “nonessential services” shutdown.
“Even with all of this it is clear that we need to figure out more revenue streams to be able to pay our fixed expenses and hopefully keep our staff employed,” he said, including Small Business Administration emergency funds. “I’m optimistic that if we can just weather the storm over the next month we can come out of this OK.”
More local effects of the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic:
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