Buddy Toad Comics is a hobby store based in Gander, NL. Gander is found in the Northwest portion of Newfoundland, along Highway 1. With a population approaching 10,000, Gander is the 7th largest city in the province. It’s great to see a comic shop in a town that size, and we can thank the entrepreneurial spirit of the owner Claudette Warren. Buddy Toads is the fourth comic shop solely owned by a woman that I’m familiar with, joining Gotham Collectibles in Burnaby, BC; Second Star in Port Perry, ON; and The Dragon, in Guelph, ON. If there are any other comic shops solely owned by women out there, let me know! I’d really like to get some perspective from these ladies about the industry and their businesses; an idea for a new article.
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Owner’s Name: Claudette Warren
Manager’s Name: Michael Rose
Number of Employees: 3
Years in Business: 1 1/2 years
Physical Address: 230 Airport Blvd, Gander, NL, A1V1L7
Telephone Number: 709-256-8686
How did you choose your store name?
Kid friendly, something won’t forget about, wanted a fun logo
How many sq ft is your store?
Favorite Comic Book, published in the past few months:
Five all-time classic comics, graphic novels or story arcs
Todd McFarlane’s run on Amazing Spider-man
Green Lantern volume 3 – when that book launched it was the first time I had heard of the character and I’ve been collecting ever since.
What are you excited about for this coming year? What are your plans for the next 12 months?
Expand the non-sports gaming dramatically; increase our outreach to the area youth, to open their eyes to the comic medium/market.
What has been one of the most rewarding parts of running your business?
The young kids coming in after reading something the have enjoyed and trying to explain the story to me.
What has been one of the biggest challenges?
Educating the community on the services and products that we offer.
Why are you a comics retailer?
This is what I love.
Product Lines Carried:
- Comic books
- Collectible Card Games: Magic The Gathering, Pokemon, Yu-gi-oh
- Dungeons and Dragons
- Twilight related products
Best selling floppy/monthly books:
monthly single issues would be Deadpool or Blackest Night
Best selling manga:
recently it has been One Piece, as they have been catching up and releasing 5 issues a month; normally our best manga seller is Zelda by a landslide.
What percentage of your business is comics compared to the peripherals of a ‘culture store’?
What are your Best selling graphic novel books?
What books do you find yourself recommending the most?
Preacher, Walking Dead, Max Brooks World War Z, Zombie Survivial Guide, most Vertigo titles; really it depends on the customer and their product knowledge. We try to introduce them to books in small steps. For returning readers, it depends on when they got out of reading/collecting: a lot of collectors were from early 90’s, so they were use to big pictures, not much substance.
What great comic/manga should everyone under 14 be reading?
What comic/manga would you recommend for an adult interested in returning to comics (superhero / non-superhero)?
We first ask what they enjoy reading. For example, if they like Stephen King, then go the Dark Tower comic books. We recommend Y the Last Man vol. 1 or 100 bullets vol. 1 quite often. These are books that are priced around $15, so people are pretty open to trying them. In our store, with most of the Vertigo volume 1’s, I give a money back guarantee and nobody has ever brought the book back requesting a refund. I am a huge Azzarello and Vaughn fan, the produce great stories, and I am a Bendis fan for straight superhero comics. Ultimate Spider-man is a great reintroduction book for Marvel fans. I could write an essay on this question, on what I reccomend, but it really is on a case by case basis.
How important is the web to your business?
Ebay is not important at all as shipping rates from Newfoundland cannot complete with the main land, but we are always pushing the website with our customers locally and provincially.
Does your store have an area of expertise? What makes your store unique?
In our area, definitely. I opened to fill a niche that was not available, while keeping the price point affordable and comparable to larger cities.
Describe the comic book scene within your community? (e.g.: amateur comics, anime/manga clubs, comic clubs, convention events)
An anime/manga club is something I am starting in 2010. We also have a Grade 5 young readers group that I support.
Do you participate in Free Comic Book Day?
Last year we did a little, but this year I am intend to do radio ads and make a major push through the schools.
What aspect of your store are you most proud?
Our selection is one of the best in the province, for the size.
Do you have special event nights/days at the store? What have been some or your best/most fun promotions/events?
We just started a group for Sunday Magic The Gathering players.
Have the last few years of Hollywood film releases changed your customer
Watchman pulled in a lot of new customers to the store, but not many other movies have had an impact as there is no movie theater in our community; the closest is 1 hour away. The big box stores saturate the market with merchandise for the movies, so there is not much money left for the small business who supports them the other 11 1/2 months.
Graphic Novels have been a growth product for large bookstore chains, does
this affect your customer base or business?
I push my customers towards graphic novels/TPBs. Monthly books are so time sensitive while trades are usually always in print, so there are no problems keeping them in stock.
With the increasing popularity of GN’s/TPB’s do you find yourself stocking
these more or less than you expected. There are a lot of upfront cost in a
large TPB inventory, are you focusing on a publisher or specific series? Do
you intend to carry a wider range of publisher in the future or would these
books be special orders only?
I carry an ever growing library. We start slow but smart, for example with 100 bullets, I stocked the first 5 books, doubling up on books 1 & 2. When a customer picked up 1 & 2, I ordered 6 & 7, and so on. We also do special orders, and series I believe are very strong I try to maintain heavy stock levels.
Are you located near any schools? Is there a college nearby? What
percentage of your business would be students? Did the presence or lack of
presence influence your decision to open at your current location?
We are in a mall, there are no schools really close. There is no university, but we do have a private college in the community.
Do you consider your store woman and kid friendly? What percentage of your business is female/child? Do you have plans to grow these groups? Do you have a kids comics section? Do you stock comics that are considered kids friendly/age appropriate reading?
Most of my women customers are either mothers or they are into twilight related products. We see manga as a very, very important market which I am trying to tap into.
Do you consider your store a collector store, where you can find high
grade books, or long runs of older back issues? Do you find that back
issues are a focus for your customers?
Back stock is not a big part of store. I do have substantial stock in the store, around 7000-8000 comic books, but with such a huge amount of older comics to contend with we find that TPBs are so much cheaper and easier to bring those stories into the store.
What form of advertising do you use? (city newspaper, small/free papers,
TV, radio, flyers, word of mouth?)
Radio ads really work! We used the local paper when I first opened but found that a waste of money.
Pull lists: good or bad? Do you have free pull list? Minimum number of
titles? Do you offer a discount on everything for a pull list customer? Do
you have them pay a yearly membership fee to get a discount?
Pull lists are a must. I try to push all my regular comic and manga customers towards a pull list account. There is no cost for setting up, we try to enforce a 30 day cancellation policy, so we are not stuck with deadstock. We charge no fees, provide no extra discount, though my regular customers who have slots get 10% off new trades.
Do you use a computerized point of sale and inventory system? Do you track sales of items to adjust orders up or down? Do you have a system to ensure a restocking of a sold book?
A POS system is our upgrade over the next 2 months. We do a lot of hands on paper trailing right now, but we going to be completely computerized.