Comics and COVID-19: a year later
Last year, we looked at the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on comic book stores. Like all areas of commerce and entertainment, comic book stores and the larger direct market have been hit hard by supply chain disruptions, “non-core business” shutdowns and a myriad of others. challenges resulting from the spread of COVID-19 to both the country and the world. At the time, we connected with various stores across the country to ask them how the pandemic was impacting their business and where they were seeing things happen in the future, not just for themselves but for their market. direct as a whole. Since then, the story has taken several twists and turns, ranging from new outbreaks of COVID-19 infections causing restrictions on business and daily life to shift to dramatic changes in the direct market itself. Now, over a year after the start of the pandemic, we’re checking in with some of the stores in our original series to see where things are now, how the last year has changed things, and what’s to come next as well as lessons learned from the whole. situation.
Before we dive into the updates, we need to first recap some of the major changes in the industry. On March 23, 2020, Diamond Comic Distributors announced that they would cease receiving shipments in their warehouse for the then indefinite future, a move that effectively shut down distribution in the direct market and made March 25, 2020 the latest news ” normal “. Comics Day. Then, a few weeks later, on April 17, 2020, DC Comics announced that it would resume selling new comics on April 28, 2020, with the help of two distributors: Lunar Distribution and UCS Comic Distributors. Diamond resumed shipping in May 2020. In June 2020, DC broke with Diamond, announcing that it would no longer use Diamond and would continue to work with Lunar Distribution and UCS Comic Distributors, groups they had turned to for. COVID. -19 ongoing shutdown and work with Penguin Random House for bookstore distribution of graphic novels and collected editions.
In March of this year, Marvel also made a major change to their relationship with Diamond, announcing that effective October 1, they will start using Penguin Random House as their new Distributor. Direct market retailers will be able to choose between ordering directly from Penguin Random House or through Distributor Diamond Comics, the former exclusive distributor of Marvel Comics in the direct market, as a wholesaler on terms established by Diamond in the United States. and the UK. Hatchette Book Group will continue to manage the distribution of Marvel graphic novels and commerce in the book market.
Apart from the upheavals in the industry, there have also been major changes in daily life. Over the past year, we’ve seen mask warrants require people to wear masks in public, including in stores, capacity requirements that limit the number of people in businesses at all times, as well as a rollback of many of these demands. COVID-19 vaccines have also been released to the public, prompting the CDC to even announce that fully vaccinated people no longer have to wear masks or socially distance themselves (except when required by regulations or the law). Across the country, home orders have increased, businesses are reopening and life is starting again.
But even though things are starting to look normal, things are still different for some comic book stores. Last year, Mary Jo Bammel, owner of Villains Grounds in Perryville, MO told us that their business had taken on great success even with their shop being a cafe as well as a comic book store. Now things have improved, but it’s not quite back to normal yet – neither are the lives of their clients.
“Our business is back to about 85 percent of what we did before,” Bammel said. “Several of our clients have reduced their working hours, so the funds for extras such as comics are gone. Hopefully things will increase over the months.”
The opposite was true for Miryam Ramos, owner of The Comic Shop in San Leandro, California. She told us that business is booming, although she expects it to slow down as more and more things open up.
“There is no more normal now,” said Ramos. “We’ve been booming – I’ve had my best four months in 27 years in the past six months. [I] expect this to decrease as more businesses / events open up and disperse discretionary spending. “
While the two stores – one located in a small town in Southeast Missouri and the other in the San Francisco Bay Area – have had different business experiences, the two have generally positive things to say about the changes in the direct market. While Ramos believes the changes are good overall – especially with Marvel allowing retailers to continue working with Diamond if they wish – Bammel, who had previously told us about major issues with their Diamond shipments, said the things had already improved considerably. just with the DC split.
Honestly, we approved the changes, “Bammel said of the DC and Marvel changes.” We struggled with the deliveries and the quality of the shipments before the split with DC. Now things have improved. I think the split with Marvel will lead to even bigger changes and for the better. Our customers are excited about splits – keeping them happy makes it easier for us. The only downside is the minimum orders – if we don’t meet the minimum, our books are held for a week. “
Of course, even a year from now there is still a long way to go and it will be a while before we fully see how the pandemic is really affecting comic book stores and the direct market as a whole, but for Bammel, the key to to get on the other side, you have to remember that things are not finished and be flexible with what will follow.
“This is not the end,” she said. “Life has a way of throwing curved balls at us and as long as we’re all flexible enough, we can handle just about anything. We’re here to take care of our customers, no matter what life throws at us.”
Photo: Cliff Grassmick / Digital First Media / Daily Boulder Camera via Getty Images