Being given the business.

§ August 17th, 2020 § Filed under retailing § 9 Comments

So here’s a thing I’ve occasionally thought about, and was reminded of in a more direct fashion on Sunday. There was a store, a comics and collectible shop, that opened up in a nearby town a couple of years back, and, unfortunately, shut down not long after.

I’m honestly not sure how long the shop was actually open, and apparently it had been in operation for several months before I even knew it existed. Usually my customers are quick to mention other shops…I mean, not in a gossipy way or anything, more like “hey I picked this up over at [wherever]” or like that. Sometimes they’ll ask me if I’m on good terms with the other shops in the surrounding environs, and thankfully I’m able to say “yes!” I’ve known many of these folks for, in some cases, decades, and while they are technically competitors, they are still my friends, or at least I’m on a friendly basis with them if they’re not lucky enough to have known me for 30+ years.

Anyway, so not hearing right away about a new shop cropping up in the area was a bit surprising. Especially (and here’s the kicker) it wasn’t too far from my house. A new comic shop, spitting distance from where I hang my metaphorical hat, and I didn’t know about it until months later. Okay, granted, I’m not exactly Mr. Quick on the Uptake or anything, and I wasn’t actively searching for other shops at the time…I’ve got my own shop, that’s enough to occupy my brain without overly worrying about what other shops are doing.

One thing I noticed, once I knew that shop existed, was that my business didn’t seem to have any drop in sales during the period. If anything, my sales were continuing their general upward climb. Thus, having a new shop in a nearby town didn’t cut into my business in a noticeable way, but even that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Just could very well be we had clienteles that didn’t overlap, with that store was pulling customers from their local area who weren’t making the trip out to my funnybook emporium. …Which is also another explanation why I wasn’t hearing about them.

But, you know, whatever…plenty of shops in the tricounty area, we all seem to be hanging in there, so what’s one more storefront? More power to them. I did try to Google them up and learn more about their shop and steal any good ideas at least remain a little competitive if the situation called for it.

But I couldn’t find them online. Searched the store name, searched the address…couldn’t find a website, or a Facebook page, or a Twitter account. Not even an Ello account or a Mastadon instance or even a Myspace. The one thing I found, the one thing, was someone’s personal Instagram account, not associated with the shop far as I can tell, that had a couple of photos from the store’s opening day. And that is…really something, particularly in the Years of Our Lord Circa 2016 or So, when everyone’s searching for everything on their phones.

I don’t know…maybe they fixed that later, but I never checked again, and anyway one I day I happened to drive by their storefront and they were gone, which I also hadn’t heard about either. I don’t know if no (or too little of an) online presence was a factor…I mean, it could have been any reason the store was shuttered, but it still struck me as unusual to not have really anything up and running once the store was a going concern. At minimum, a basic webpage with a specific domain name relating to your store, showing your address, your hours, and your email address.

I realize I had an advantage with my own online visibility. By the time I opened my shop, I’d been blogging on this site for about 11 years. I have a reasonably-sized readership, and some amount of goodwill I haven’t yet squandered by, well, you know. When I opened my shop, it got some measure of attention. Tom Spurgeon put it on the Comic Reporter site, Scott McCloud tweeted about it, and plenty of other folks hither and yon got the word out.

And I had online venues ready to go. A store website, a store Instagram, a store Twitter, and a store Facebook, and of course the eBay store. I don’t even exploit those resources as much or as often as I should, but they still provide a solid online presence for me. And, like, Instagram has helped sell so many things, I can’t even believe it. There are folks who’ll call me the moment I throw something of interest up there.

And on top of all that, there is of course the very page you’re reading now, and my personal Twitter account. Both feed business to me…I do a lot of wheeling and dealing in my Twitter DMs, for example.

This is a lot of typing to tell you “having your business at least minimally online is good, actually,” a conclusion which can’t be a surprise to anyone reading this. And I’m honestly not trying to pick on this other former shop, which would be, well, quite rude of me. I was just reminded about that store’s brief lifespan, with not even a ghostly internet memory left behind, save perhaps for the ones buried long back in someone’s picture feed.

9 Responses to “Being given the business.”

  • Rich Handley says:

    This is valuable information, Mike. Your upcoming competitors will now be in a better position to, er, steal away your business. :)

  • adrian says:

    I’ve been screeching about this kind of thing for YEARS. Back in 2008 a shop opened up very early in the year, a mere one town over-and in Connecticut, one town over is only like 5 miles. I didn’t hear about it till late summer. no advertising. nothing. My room mate noticed it because she went to the library across the street.

    I eventually became tight with the owner, but CT comics fans are thin on the ground, and after a disastrous move a year later to a tiny two room second floor rental, the shop folded. No one knew it was there, how to get there, or when it would be open. We recorded our podcast there several times, but no one listened to THAT, so i guess that didn’t help him.

    The guy loved comics, but he was not a businessman.

    And that’s the real shame of LCSs. Somehow, dinky little shops that sell “healing crystals” an the like can stay open for decades, but a comic shop struggles every day. Somehow people know the New Agers etc, (or independent massage therapists, or indy shoe shops, or or or) are around and can find things out about them, but comics shops, well, why tell anyone you’re around? I mean, Comics aren’t sold anywhere else so a fan will just come looking for you, right? Built in customer base just by existing, right? Exist, Draw Customers, Profit.

    Nope.

    We’ve only got like 6 decent shops in the entire state of Connecticut. But if I hadn’t desperately, diligently, hunted them down, I’d only know about maybe three.

  • The shop I go to in Mesa, AZ, has been around since 1993, so he has a bit of a leg up on having customers, but he had zero on-line presence until very recently, and even now, he just posts on Facebook every once in a while. He does pretty well, but I’m always amazed that he does almost nothing on-line. It seems very odd that if you were staring out now, you wouldn’t do everything you can on-line to get the news out.

  • King of the Moon says:

    Heck, just based on weird things I’ve seen friends post on their walls today, just ever shop with a prescence saying “DC IS NOT STOPPING PAPER COMICS. I WILL STILL HAVE YOUR BATMANS EVERY MONTH” would be helpful

  • BobH says:

    Back in the 1990s, when I was looking for a lot of back issues, I would go to at least one comic store a week in addition to the one where I got my new comics. Probably took about half a year to make a circuit of all the ones I knew about or were listed in the phonebook, though about half of them I never went back to after the initial visit. One time I came across an early webpage with a list of local shops, and one stood out, since I’d never heard of the store but the street was walking distance from my house, and I probably drove by that address at least twice a week. Of course, when I finally went down there it was an empty storefront (with what looked like some half-hearted and abandoned renovations, maybe for a coffee shop) on the non-street facing side of a low-rent strip mall. I always wondered what kind of store it was, so conveniently located to me (the next nearest comic shop was maybe a half-hour drive, the nearest decent one even further).

  • Snark Shark says:

    MAYBE it was a front for a money launderin goperation!

  • Randy says:

    Being a likable person online can’t hurt.

    I bought a lot of books from a bleeding eyeball dude from half a continent away because he seemed like an awfully nice guy.

  • Randy says:

    Snark Shark, I like that spelling…

    launderin goperation!

    maybe a Trump/Russian front?

  • Snark Shark says:

    “Randy”

    If only this thing had an EDIT feature!

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