A Healthy New Year
What does it mean for a comic shop to be "healthy"? While no one size fits all, we have goals to keep our shop fit and flexible in 2023.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about health.
It’s not uncommon for most folks to hit the new year with resolutions about eating better, getting more exercise or making time for meditation. But for me, this year, I’m thinking about the health of Neighborhood Comics.
Lots of things are coming to an end, with new beginnings on the way. Our storefront lease has one more year, so renegotiations will start soon. We just lost an employee (on good terms) which is sad - but also an opportunity to welcome new life to the team. We ended some sponsorships that weren’t mutually beneficial and are looking for new inroads to support the community we love.
Health is Often Synonymous with Change
We can always do something different, even if that means making sacrifices in other ways. The following are certainly not resolutions - but more like challenges for the year ahead.
Increasing Foot Traffic
Our in-store experience is solid. When people come into the store, they are greeted and authentically welcomed by our staff. They get amazing recommendations. They feel safe and valued. They find things that they love. They come back for more. But in order to keep up with our long term goals, we need to get more bodies in the door.
While we always have 2-3 in-store events per month, we’re catering to a lot of the same comics savvy crowd. Expanding to new people means diversifying our partners and events outside of our core comics community. More on that in a future post.
Perfecting Our Live Sales
Like it or not, live comic book sales have become a huge part of our business. Sharing that in-store experience with folks around the country is a humbling and rewarding task.
For this year, “perfecting” means sticking to a regular schedule, optimizing the time involved on-air and curating the inventory selected. There’s currently too much variance in what we earn each show, so doubling down on what works (and leaving behind what doesn’t) should made a huge difference.
I see these live sales as a valid extension of foot traffic. Expanding our customer base, while exposing them to the tenants and values of our store, is important work all around.
Listening to Our Customers
We’re hitting the four year mark in a few months. That first year saw a lot of changes to meet the needs of our new customers. We totally guessed on what would work. Sometimes we were right, but more often than not, wrong. Being flexible and willing to pivot has saved our skin more than once. We’ve rested on our instincts post lockdown and it’s time to reach out to our customers and find out ways to better serve them. Is it better product discovery? Expanding certain genres? Simplifying the ordering process? We’ll find out and implement new processes.
Listening to Our Staff
The best ideas always start with our team. They are in the trenches with customers every day and habitually come up with killer suggestions. From small organizational tricks to efficiently tackling inventory tasks and everything in between, they are a crucial sounding board for management. We’ll be providing more opportunities this year to listen and collaborate both as a group and one-on-one.
What Wasn’t Mentioned…
If you noticed, one thing that wasn’t explicitly mentioned was increased sales. During a year when we’re planning to make lots of changes, that’s not always a realistic goal. Instead, we’re going to focus on the four objectives listed above. In a perfect world, increased sales would follow along. But that’s not the standard of success in this case. The goal is to be “healthy” - paying our bills, taking care of our employees, being the fun, inviting space our customers love - while at the same time welcoming new faces to the party. Because there’s always room for something (or someone) new at the ol’ comic shop.