Monday, July 04, 2011

Tuesday, Tuesday

Tomorrow is the Tuesday after a Monday holiday, and the Dr. No's schedule remains unaffected. And anyone who knows the comic book business understands why that's a Big Thing.

For those who are not privy to the inner workings of comics distribution and retailing, here's a quick rundown. (And for those of you not at all interested... well, this is going to be one of those posts you'll want to skip...) As of January 2011, comic shops have had the option to sign up for Day Early Delivery. That means that shops like Dr. No's, who've chosen to pay a $4 per week DED fee and abide by certain terms (no selling books any earlier than prevailing business hours on Wednesday is the prime requirement) can receive their books Tuesday to allow them to process books, report shortages or damages, and prepare for the next day's business. Prior to 2011, a few stores got their books on Tuesdays, but most stores received their books on Wednesday and then had to scramble to unpack, count, and rack them for sale as quickly as possible.

The new system makes for a much more civilized, professional approach. However (you knew there was going to be a catch, didn't you?), when there was a Monday holiday, books ran a day late. Stores could still sell on Wednesday, but they were also receiving on Wednesday, so we were all back to that hectic rush-unpack-count-and-rack scenario.

But Diamond has boosted the professionalism of the entire industry by arranging to ship comics to most accounts in time for them to receive on Tuesday in spite of the Monday holiday, meaning that Tuesday is business as usual. That's a major step forward; it allows comics retailers to operate with the same sort of professionalism that is evidenced by book retailers, music retailers, and other entertainment media retailers. Books can be properly processed and racked, special orders can be pulled, shipping materials can be removed form the sales floor, displays can be prepared... it's a tremendous benefit to retailers.

This required Diamond Comics Distributors to reinvent their system, which is no small feat. Diamond keeps their distirbution system profitable by operating a relatively efficient, tightly scheduled operation. In order to get books to stores on Tuesday in spite of a Monday holiday, they had to ship everyone's books one day earlier than usual, which means that books had to be ready one day earlier, which requires either (a) overtime, or (b) an even more efficient system. I'm not sure whether Diamond opted for A or B or came up with alternative C that I haven't considered--but however they did it, the end result was we get to treat Tuesday just like any other Tuesday, in spite of the Monday holiday.

So, comics fans, when you go into your local shop on Wednesday and everyone looks just a little more relaxed and ready for business, you'll know what's going on, and why something that seems so trivial to non-retailers is such a big thing to the guys who sell comics for a living.

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