22 June 2010

Hastings to Open 127 Comic Stores Nationwide in US

iFanboy | Josh Flanagan | Hastings to Open 127 Comic Stores Nationwide in US

The news broke on Bleeding Cool today that entertainment chain Hastings, will launch 127 direct market comic shops throughout the US. By adding an expanded comics section to 127 of their existing 147 stores, they're set to be the largest buyers of comic books in retail. That's a big deal, and presents them with a huge amount of power in what will ultimately be sold and published. [...]

I'll admit, this is a weird move. The direct market is in a bit of flux. With digital as an impending competitor, I feel like everyone is holding their collective breath. Granted, this move will make it easier for some readers who weren't served by a local store, but I've never heard of the chain.
I thought it was weird at first as well since so many existing retailers are struggling, but now I think it makes a lot of sense. They are probably betting that there are enough potential customers out there who like comics enough to buy a few, but not enough to make a trip to a specific store to do so on a regular basis.  This seems like a fairly good bet to me.

I think if this Hastings experiment works and Marvel/DC are smart they're going to have to respond by simplifying their line-ups.  If someone gets interested in (say) Iron Man and walks into a dedicated comic shop the staff will have enough knowledge to walk the customer through which of the many Iron Man books on the shelf are good for an inexperienced reader.  It's still intimidating, but at least there's some help.  You don't have that in a place like Hastings.  If you're Marvel/DC and your biggest single outlet is now a place like Hastings you need to make it easier on the person who wants to walk into a store and just grab Iron Man or Batman: you can't publish so many series of the same character simultaneously, it needs to be clearer which issues go with which and which series follow which, things need to publish on time, etc.

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