The future of print is in the hands of small retailers

I was in St Albans yesterday for an interesting meeting with someone I can’t name about a project I can’t mention. But afterwards I had enough time to pop into Chaos City Comics, a small comic shop which has apparently been going for a couple of decades.

It’s a really nice friendly shop, and having overheard the owner go through the world of comics with someone buying on behalf of someone else, we ended up striking up a bit of a chat about the comic shop business, a forthcoming reboot for DC comics, and the future of print in a world of tablet computing and curated discovery.

It made me think a lot about the future of print – apparently the combination of high profile movies and new formats has encouraged new business into the shop for print comics. But will this continue when superhero movies may not be moneyspinners for the studios, and when more and more people might be reading everything on a screen to the exclusion of anything else?

One thing we did talk about which I think might have potential for comics in particular is a curated experience which is already being offered by some specialist record retailers. Rather than visiting a storefront with the rent and expense that incurs, you’re able to visit a small office in which you pour out all your musical preferences and interests, and in return you get an expert providing you with a suitable selection to sample and enjoy before parting with your cash for the ones you want to take away.

So what about the same for comics? As someone who has less time than ever to keep up with the latest news and issues, I’d love to be able to go to a friendly expert on a regular basis who could not only suggest and advise what new titles I should try, but also be able to provide the complete story arcs I should be reading on a regular basis…

A selection of comics

Image by KickTheBeat on Flickr (CC Licence)

 

Small retailers need to do more…

The other thing that stood out is that I had a great experience in store, but I’m not a St Albans regular, and coming home and finding the Chaos City website has been a little frustrating, as it could definitely be offering more – it’s a basic news service about the store at the moment, without any way for me to part with any money for starters.

And that seems to be the case with so many great little specialist shops – great owners and staff, great knowledge and expertise, and no really good way of being able to access it when you’re not in the shop itself.

And there’s no legitimate excuse for that in an era when print is in decline, and the likely future will be one of niche publishing in specific areas of interest. There are lots of not only effective, but also efficient ways to increase turnover and provide more ways to interested people to spend cash with you, in addition to building customer loyalty and improving customer service. And considering the amount of free and open source options available to create a really good web presence, it doesn’t have to be expensive – especially if you deal in comics and know someone susceptible to payment in back issues as well as cash ๐Ÿ˜‰