Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Gail Simone and Comic Holds

Noted comic writer Gail Simone posted a series of tweets this week pointing out that people who have comic pull and holds at their local shop who don't pick them up can really hurt the shop, even without meaning to do so. Although not a huge part of our business, we do sell enough comics that having someone not pick up their pull and hold will hurt us.

Incidentally, the term "pull and hold" refers to the process of setting up a comic subscription at a store. By setting one up, the store will "pull" off the issues of new comics for you as they come in each week and "hold" them for you until you can pick them up. Hence the term "pull and hold" or just "comic pulls"

Here is what happens when we put in a comic order and generate "pulls":

1. We put in what is called an initial order approximately 2 months ahead of the onsale date of the comics. This order included any subscriptions that we have received from customers as well as comics that past sales or the reading of our customer base lead us to think will sell in addition to the subscriptions. We do not pay for the books at this time and most stores do not require advance payment for subscriptions.

2. Over the next two months, if we get more ordered for a book or think there were be more demand for it than we though, we put in advance reorders, increasing our original order.

3. About 2 weeks before the comics arrive, we order what are called Final Order Cuttoff books. These are comics that have an agreement with the distributor to allow stores to increase or decrease initial orders at this time. Once the FOC goes in, barring a major goof, a store's orders are locked.

4.  Comics arrive. If a store has COD terms, it pays for the books on arrival. If it has extended terms, it can pay 10 to 30 days later. Comics and other items that customers have pre-ordered get pulled out of the order and held for them. The remainder go out for sale.

5. Comics sell. This is the most important period in the selling cycle of a comic books. Since comics are periodicals, a new one will ship about 30 days later. 75% of the sales of a comic take place within 72 hours after it hits the shelf. Any books remaining after about 3 days have only a 25% chance of selling.

6. Comics are paid for. The store has to pay for the comics. Unlike the mass market, comic shops do not, in most cases, get to strip covers off the books and return them for credit. We own the books that we ordered and if we ordered too many of a book we either move it to back issue bins or mark it down.

Here's where the problem with people not picking up their holds comes in. By customers not picking up holds regularly, stores can accumulate a large number of books that will likely not sell. Assume you have 10 customers that each hold 10 books per month at an average cost of $3 per book, who don't pick up their books. That is $300 at retail the store for which the store is liable and likely won't recoup. Individually, a $3 comic may not seem particularly costly but when you aggregate them, they can cut into a store's profitability pretty quickly eventually helping to put it out of business. So, whereever  you shop, please help your comic shop to stay in business and pick up your holds regularly.