A while back I came across this video YouTube. It’s worth a watch, even if it is a tad annoying.
While watching this it became clear folk don’t understand how to run a business, and although the video is full of Millennial bullshit (”use an app”)there are points to be made, so let’s take a look at the pull list.
The pull list is a staple of the comic shop I’ve worked in three big comics shops in Glasgow, London and Bristol and each one ran a pull list more or less along the same lines. Customer comes in, says ”I don’t want to miss another issue of Reagan’s Raiders, can you keep it aside for me?’
So when the next thrilling issue comes in, you put it aside for your customer and when s/he comes in they’re chuffed because they’ve got their thrilling adventure comic. Sounds great and mutually beneficial? Well no, the problem is you as a shop are providing a free service for your customer which sounds great, but customers will not pick their books up regularly. That’s fine if you’ve been made aware of it at the start; for one example I had a customer in Bristol who said he only comes into Bristol once a month who ordered quite a bit of stuff, mainly Marvel and DC. Fine, you have a good day when they come in but you’ll have people who don’t tell you and their comics mount up.
One week in Bristol I counted near a grand of comics sitting in people’s lists. That went down by the end of the weekend but that’s a grands worth of stock sitting there unable to be sold, or in some cases, gotten rid of because you’ll never sell it and end up carrying it around for decades.
My solution to this is making the pull list a membership scheme. You pay a sum dependent upon how many comics you want to put aside so if you do a runner leaving us with a load of unsold, and unsellable, comics, we’ve at least had something off you.Today I’d go further and set up a direct debit, and if need be, a mail order so we’d not only get the money but ship the comics which means freeing space. If you think that’s harsh then perhaps running a business isn’t for you because the pull list can bring shops down and here’s the thing, most people open up a shop based upon their collection and a hope to make somewhere really fun for your mates and like-minded people to hang out but if nobody is spending money then ultimately all you’re doing is paving your way for bankruptcy.
Everything you’ll do to run your shop is going to involve thinking how it’ll help make you money. Sure you can do all the things you’d like when you’re secure or at least, stable, but I’ve seen shops go bust when they’ve ran out of ideas or when the collection runs out, or they’ve just sat there on their arses sneering at punters rather than working out how to keep in business because running your own business is hard and you don’t want to make it harder, so sometimes you’ll have to do things which make you seem harsh but unless you’ve got loads of capital behind you, you’ll need to think how to utilise things like the pull list or branch into markets new and fresh. And no, I don’t mean wargaming or a wall of Funko Pop figures.
Ask yourself what’s your unique selling point; what is it you do that no other shop of your kind in the area does and how can you draw and keep customers. Also customers have to have realistic expectations of what your shop can do. Explain to them that ordering comics is often a guessing game.
Take for example the variant cover. It is a plague. DC, to be fair, are actually good with their variants but everyone else is a shitshow where ordering 10 extra copies of Title Z, means you might get a comic that sells for loads on Ebay but you’ve taken a hit in order to get it. So consult with your customers but show them how complex it can be but just getting them to look at Diamond’s order form but sometimes everyone (bar a few) are going to miss out on things like the variant of Batgirl #23.
Which brings us back to the pull list. It can be the spine that holds your shop together only if you’ve got it turning over regularly, but you have to at some point deal with the cold realities and economics of running an independent comic shop or you’ll go the way of far too many shops.