Comic Retailers – Comic Book Addiction (Whitby, ON)

Please note: Unfortunately we don’t have any pictures to run with the interview. Both Robert and Kevin had a chance to visit CBA earlier this month though, on different occasions.

Owner’s Names – Steve Quinnell and Nick Catros

Manager’s Name – Phil Scott

Number of Employees – 3

Years on Business – 20 (as a comic book dealer, 3 years as a retailer)

Address: 1022 Brock Street South, Whitby, Ontario L1N 4L8

Telephone: 905-666-0011; toll free 1-877-666-0013

Website – www.comicbookaddiction.com

How did you choose your store name?

Steve has been a life long comic book collector. It has been a passion (okay, an obsession) for him since he was a child. Early on during our partnership, we began to discuss a name for our business. After considering and quickly dismissing several uninspired names like “World’s Finest Comics” and “Steve &Nick’s Comics”, Steve said, “you know, I’ve got a great name. It describes perfectly how I feel about comics, and how I think a lot of other people feel”. He threw out the name “Comic Book Addiction” and we both knew right away, it was perfect. 20 years later, we are still spreading the addiction to comic book fanatics, new and old.

How many sq ft is your store?

2200 square feet.

Favorite Comic Book, published in the past few months:

Chew

Five all-time classic comics, graphic novels or story arcs

I) Dark Phoenix
II) The Galactus Trilogy (Fantastic Four 48, 49 and 50)
III) Death of Superman
IV) Kraven’s Last Hunt
V) Dark Knight Returns

What are you excited about for this coming year? What are your plans for the next 12 months?

We are very much looking forward to the Iron Man II movie and in terms of comic books, Marvel’s Heroic Age. As far as plans for the next year, we have just recently (December 2009) moved into a new location, and have built what we consider to be a premium comic book and gaming shop. We are looking forward to sharing our vision of the “ideal” comic book store with as many people as possible. We are also planning to spread the word about Comic Book Addiction online, with what we believe to be an innovative and ambitious internet strategy (keep an eye out for CBA blogs and webcasts, they are going to be something special and really fun). Through these measures, we hope to substantially increase CBA’s brand awareness. After that, who knows? It won’t happen in the next 12 months, but if things go as planned, you can start looking for Comic Book Addictions to start popping up in your local area.

What has been one of the most rewarding parts of running your business?

Sharing a passion with others who love it. We are a retail business, but it never feels like we are “selling” something. Its that way with things that you love and you really believe in. We believe a comic book shop should be like a community. It should be a safe, secure and pleasant environment for people who love comics, not just to shop in, but also to meet with others and to share their passion.

What has been one of the biggest challenges?

We opened our first brick and mortar comic book shop in early 2006 (prior to that, we were exclusively online and trade show retailers). Things went very well, and we were reasonably happy with our shop, but we knew that to really roll out our vision of the “ideal” comic book shop, we would need to move. We began looking for a new location in early 2009, and found a great spot around mid-year. We were very excited about the potential which the new location represented, but the logistical challenges of moving locations and building a shop which matched our vision were substantial. There were a lot of sleepless nights, and a lot of bumps in the road, but through a great deal of work and a persistent drive to achieve our vision, the new Comic Book Addiction was born, and we honestly could not be happier with the way it turned out.

Product Lines Carried: (e.g.: comics, manga, T-shirts, CCG, Warhammer)

We carry a full range of comics, trade paperbacks, graphic novels, statues, busts, and figures. We also carry a full range of gaming products (Magic, World of Warcraft, Heroclix etc.) and have permanent dedicated space in the store for running gaming events. We run at least one gaming event every day.

Best selling floppy/monthly books (and Best selling manga if you sell manga)

Currently its Siege and Blackest Night.

What percentage of your business is comics compared to the peripherals of a ‘culture store’?

75% of our business is made up of comics and comic related products. The majority of the balance is made up of gaming products.

What are your Best selling graphic novel books?

Currently Walking Dead, The Boys, Batman: Long Halloween and Civil War.

What books do you find yourself recommending the most?

Chew, Irredeemable, Locke and Key.

What great comic/manga should everyone under 14 be reading?

Bone.

What comic/manga would you recommend for an adult interested in returning to comics?

Superhero – Civil War. Non-superhero – Y The Last Man.

How important is the web to your business?

Despite having made a substantial investment in building the new store, we feel strongly enough in the importance of the internet to the long term prospects of our business, that we are making fresh investments in that area in 2010. We have engaged external consultants that are experts in the field of establishing businesses on the internet, with the added bonus of being very familiar with comic books and the comic book industry. We are very confident that our internet presence will be a very important part of our overall business in the months and years to come.

Does your store have an area of expertise? What makes your store unique?

Service, service, service. We believe that in order to differentiate ourselves in the marketplace we must deliver an exceptional service experience to our customers. There are many ways in which we attempt to do that: First off, we try to offer an unsurpassed selection of products to our customers. We offer a wide selection of new comics each week and keep thousands of different trade paperback and graphic novel titles in stock at all times. We offer a free “pull” service to all regular customers to assist in ensuring that they do not miss any issues they regularly collect. Beyond that our entire staff is not only uniquely knowledgeable about the products we offer but also share our passion for the things we sell. The total package translates into what we hope is an overall amazing customer experience.

Describe the comic book scene within your community? (e.g.: amateur comics, anime/manga clubs, comic clubs, convention events)

For a relatively small area population wise, Durham Region has quite a vibrant comic book community. There are no fewer than 6 stores within a 10 minute drive of our location, each with a loyal and passionate customer base. More broadly, the local post-secondary school, Durham College, offers programs and courses for artists, including comic artists. The community has also spawned The Durham Comics Guild, which is a club for local comic creators to meet and collaborate.

Do you participate in Free Comic Book Day?

Yes. It’s always a highlight of our year. We try and make it a special day, where we can all get together and celebrate our love of comics. We do a free barbeque, dress our staff up in super hero costumes and try to have local comic books artists in to do free sketches for our customers. We love Free Comic Book Day!!!

What aspect of your store are you most proud?

The overall look and feel. Generally speaking, comic book stores pay very little attention to the kinds of things that almost all other retail stores consider critically important, such as store layout, fixtures, aesthetic appeal, etc. Heck, many don’t even make the effort to ensure the store isn’t cluttered or overrun with excess inventory. As such, building a comic book shop that compares favourably with other comic book shops is not, to be blunt, all that difficult. Instead, what we tried to do was to build a shop that would compare favourably with any retail establishment, a place where people can feel comfortable spending time and having their children spend time. We believe we have accomplished that goal with our new location, and we are so proud of it.

Do you have special event nights/days at the store? What have been some or your best/most fun promotions/events?

As mentioned previously, we have a dedicated area in which we can run events of all different kinds. Almost every day we have formal gaming events scheduled to take place at some point. Beyond that, the area is regularly used by customers that just happen to be in the store and want to play a card game or a board game. Many of our events are focused on small children, and most Sundays we have over 20 kids ages 5-9 in the store for Chaotic or other gaming events. On Family Day we ran a day long board game event that was very well attended. People are so comfortable with the store they are even asking about holding birthday parties there.

Have the last few years of Hollywood film releases changed your customer base?

The great thing about the emergence of the movies is that they, more than anything else we can think of in our 20 years of business, have brought comics into the mainstream of contemporary social culture. In the past, comic book collecting was generally considered a cult past-time for geeks and loners. However, what the movies have proved is that the appeal of comic books, the characters, and the story arcs are actually universal in nature. That is an excellent development for the hobby and bodes very well for the future.

Graphic Novels have been a growth product for large bookstore chains, does this affect your customer base or business?

Its difficult to say, but our graphic novel sales have consistently been on the rise over the past several years. Its never a good idea to try and compete directly with big box retailers like Chapters, etc., on their own terms. However, a comic book shop never really does that, even if it offers some of the same products. When it comes to selection and knowledge of the products, a large retail chain like Chapters is actually in a very poor position to compete effectively against a comic book shop. Who knows? The fact that big box retailers sell graphic novels might actually bring people into the hobby that would otherwise have never made their way into a comic book shop.

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?

As indicated above, we believe that offering a wide selection of trade paperbacks and graphic novels is an important part of what differentiates us from other comic shops. The investment necessary to carry the level of inventory we maintain (several thousand different titles) is indeed substantial, but we have found it well worth it.

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?

While there are several schools in our immediate area and we do have many “school age” customers, the proximity to schools was not a significant factor in selecting our location. Our selection was driven primarily by its prime location on the busiest thoroughfare in Whitby. Having said that, we believe promotion of our business through schools is important, and we often conduct special events with or offer special promotions to local area schools.

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?

One of our main goals in building the new store was to create a woman and kid-friendly environment. Unfortunately, many comic shops are not. When designing the store, we made sure to allocate substantial space to a “kids” section, which features a wide variety of children’s comics, trades, books and other items. As mentioned previously, we operate several weekly events that are geared specifically towards children and our weekly board game night attracts many families. In general, we have tried to create a welcoming and comfortable environment that people of all ages and genders will enjoy spending time in. In truth, our children’s business this isn’t a huge part of our overall business, but its an investment in the future, and we are very happy with the way in which it is developing.

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?

When we originally started Comic Book Addiction, it was as a vintage comic books business, and we eventually became one of Canada’s leading retailers of collector grade comic books. As such, that part of the hobby will always be a big part of what we offer in our retail store. Having said that, we have found that while almost everyone that has an interest in current issue comic books finds the vintage books to be of some appeal, most collectors of current run comic books do not become collectors of vintage comic books. Regardless, we believe it is important to maintain a selection of premium quality vintage comic books, and we expect to do so for the foreseeable future.

What form of advertising do you use? (city newspaper, small/free papers, TV, radio, flyers, word of mouth?)

Yellow pages, internet and community events/word of mouth.

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?

We offer a free pull list service to anyone that wants it, regardless of the number of titles. There is no membership or other cost associated with it. In addition, for those customers that purchase over 25 each month, we provide a 10% discount on all comics and trades. As mentioned previously, we believe that service is a key distinguishing feature of our business, and our free pull service is a big part of the service we deliver to our customers. But more than simply offering it for free, we take pride in ensuring that we never miss a customer’s requested pulls. Beyond that, we try to get to know each and every one of our regular customers personally, and over time, we begin to learn about the types of products they enjoy, so that, as new products come out, we can make educated recommendations to our customers, that are tailored to their particular likes and dislikes. Service, service, service.

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?

Some time ago, we invested in the Microsoft RMS point of sale and inventory management system, as this is the system that is compatible with Diamond’s Comic Suite system. This system provides us with up to the minute data on sales and customer trends and inventory levels. It is invaluable in setting order levels and in ensuring that items are re-ordered before we are completely out of stock.

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