Sunday, August 21, 2011

Turbulent Economic Times

The economy continues to take its toll on comic shops. Late last month we learned that a local comic shop was closing its doors at the end of August. A week after that we learned that another local shop is struggling but hopes to straighten things out. Then I heard this evening that an Arizona comic shop owned by someone I've gotten to know through a comics retailer forum may be closing as well. (And no, I'm not going to name specific shops--it's not fair to them, since in some cases those shops may prefer to notify their customers on their own schedule... and if a shop is struggling, the dissemination of that information can make the situation even worse.)

There's no doubt that economic turbulence impacts entertainment media like comics; the old saw that comics were recession-proof has proven to be totally untrue. I've seen friends who've been in the business for decades forced to close down stores that I thought were too well established to fail. We've seen customers forced to cut back or curtail comics buying because of job losses.

It's not just comic shops, of course. Every small business is facing the same turbulence; some are better positioned to succeed than others, but a few months of severe setbacks can put a strain on any business.

I hate to hear about a comic shop closing; not only does it put friends and acquaintances out of work, but it also means that a certain number of comic book readers just disappear. Even if there are other shops in the immediate area, some readers don't migrate elsewhere--it's a phenomenon we've seen again and again.

I've said a few times that every business has a lifespan; nevertheless, I feel that the current economic climate is killing some businesses before their time. We're very fortunate to have a loyal clientele to carry us through turbulent times; I'd hate to think how challenging it must be for a newer shop that hasn't had a third of a century to build its clientele and inventory.

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