Comic Retailers – 4-Colour, 8-Bit: Comics and Games (Kingston, ON)

Store Questionnaire

Owner’s Name:

Nicholas Chan and Adam Pottier

Manager’s Name:

Nicholas Chan and Adam Pottier

Number of Employees: 2: Kevin Merritt and Jake Collins

Years in Business: 2

Physical Address and Phone Number:

348 Princess St, Kingston Ontario, K7L 1B4: 613 542 1200

Website:

Www.4c8b.com

Email:

info@4c8b.com

How did you choose your store name?

With 4-Colour, 8-Bit: Comics and Games, we wanted a name that reflects the golden ages of comic books and video games. Originally, comics were printed in black and white, using only one colour of ink. They reached their first golden age when they moved over to colour comics, using four colours of ink in a process called CMYK printing (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black). The comics of that era are therefore known as 4-colour comics.

Video games were originally in 2-bit graphics, and they reached their first golden age with the dawn of the Nintendo era, which was in 8-Bit graphics. Thus 4-Colour, 8-Bit: Comics and Games celebrates the histories of our mediums.

How many sq ft is your store?

1200 retail, 1200 storage

Favorite Comic Book, published in the past few months:

In the past few months, Blackest Night has been our most talked about story arc. Five all-time classic comics, graphic novels or story arcs.

Maus, Kingdom Come, Fables, Alias, Sandman in no particular order

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

Free comic book day, 24 Hour Comics Day, and King Con (a local gaming convention we put together with 2 other retail stores, Kingston Gaming Nexus and Minotaur: Games and Gifts

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

One of the most rewarding aspects of my business has been the creation of a core community of comic book and video game lovers, people who come to our store mainly because they enjoy being together in a warm and nurturing environment. We designed the business with repeat clientele in mind, and our response in the community has been phenomenal. We realized early on that if we could make a visit to our store part of the daily routine of our regulars – that if they would stop by, not necessarily to purchase but instead to socialise – then half our battle is won. Thus, on any day of the week, you can find a large number of people in the store who form a core community. This community has allowed us to do a large number of events that we otherwise would not be able to have done.

What has been one of the biggest challenges?

Our biggest challenge has been competing in a market where industry giants such as Walmart, Electronic Boutique, and Future Shop often sell games under cost. Even with a higher in-store price point and lower profit margin, we succeed in providing better quality of service while also offering a more diverse comic inventory. Our staff is highly knowledgeable in all aspects of our merchandise. This knowledge, combined with our dedicated community has facilitated our continued success.

Why are you a comics retailer?

We sell comics because we believe the medium is a powerful and unique way of storytelling. We believe that there are stories that can be told only in comics. We have loved comics for as long as we can remember and we want nothing more than to share our passion not only with existing customers, but with new ones as well.

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

Comic Books, Trade Paper Backs, Manga, Magic: The Gathering, World of Warcraft: CCG, Yu-Gi-Oh, Pokemon, New Video Games, Used Video Games, Retro Video Games.

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

Currently, it is a close tie between Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Captain America: Reborn and Blackest Night, but Chew is our staff favourite seller. Naruto is our best selling manga, but Man Hua, a Korean manga, is a rising star, giving Japanese manga a run for its money. More adult-oriented books like The Breaker and Immortal Regis are catching on and are favourites among the staff.

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

A solid 70% of our net is from comic sales.

What are your best selling graphic novel books?

Fables and The Walking Dead, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

What books do you find yourself recommending the most?

Fables and The Walking Dead, Kingdom Come, Sandman, and Watchmen.

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

Mouse Guard, Tiny Titans (one of our guiltiest pleasures), One Piece, Bone, Jellaby and Amulet

What comic/manga would you recommend for an adult interested in returning to comics
(superhero / non-superhero)?

Fables, Walking Dead, Batman and Robin, Green Lantern, Deadpool, Superman: Secret Origin and Death Note, The Boys. We also believe that just about all comic readers should eventually own copies of Maus and Watchmen.

How important is the web to your business?

It is quite important. We use Facebook and our website to keep in contact with our regulars, as well as to advertise our special events. The use of Facebook allows us a personalised involvement with our customers directly.

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

The store is unique in that we sell a mixture of both comic books and video games. Most people are surprised to see how wide a crossover there is in the two demographics.

We specialize in not only our customer service but also our community events (Magic Tournaments, D&D events, video game tournaments, 24 Hour Comics Day, Free Comic Book Day, Art Galas, movie premieres, comic signings).

The back half of the store is dedicated to supporting our community and has table space to seat 16 people without using our folding tables. We use this space to play Magic the Gathering and to hang out with our regulars. Moreover, in the back, we have a 47-inch TV with a PS3, a 360, and a Wii. This system is free to play and we use it to demo our favourite games as well as to hold in-store tournaments. The back half of the store has wall space which we use to feature local artists. To date, we have had ten featured artists in the store, including Shuster Award winning artist, Lar DeSousa.

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

Our local library has multiple comic book clubs and Queens University has an anime club, Otaqu,which we support. Furthermore, while Kingston does not have any comic conventions, many residents travel to Toronto and Ottawa to attend larger conventions.

Do you participate in Free Comic Book Day?

Yes, we have participated every year that we have been open. This year, we will have Ronn Sutton and Janet Hetherington (and possibly more artists) in the store for a signing during the event.

What aspect of your store are you most proud?

We are most proud of our community. Where other businesses try to get a customer in and out as quickly as possible, we strive to keep a customer for life. Because of this, we have managed to create a destination that attracts people like us – people who make coming to work not a burden, but a joy.

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

Every week, we hold two Magic tournaments: a draft on Tuesday and Friday Night Magic on Fridays. We also hold special Magic events such as Pre-Release and Release tournaments. On Mondays, we host a regular D & D group. Every month, we host an in-store video game tournament. Once every three months, we put together an art gala featuring a local artist. We have also created a convention with two other retail stores called King Con. This con, in its third year, boasts an attendance of well over a hundred and features various gaming tournaments including Magic, Warhammer, DnD, and various video games. We also work in conjunction with our local movie theatre to promote industry-related movies. We bring a large number of regulars to opening nights and give away various related merchandise to increase awareness of the store to the general public. Lastly, we also hold Free Comic Book Day and 24 Hour Comics Day every year and one of our 24-Hour Comics Days was featured in Queen’s University short film.

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

In recent years, Hollywood films have increased public awareness of the comic book industry. In fact, we have seen an increase in our ‘newbie’ customer base as people come in with little comic knowledge, but are interested in learning more.

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

Though we have seen business like Chapters and Indigo carrying more and more graphic novels, we feel that this can affect business only in a good way. Big box stores help extend the comic book market into new demographics, and in doing so, open the door to new customers for stores like us that are passionate about comics.

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?

We are constantly fighting to keep many of our trade paperbacks in stock. It is hard to know how much overstock to order since it takes an average of two weeks for reorders to come in. Marvel and DC have the most amount of books available and so they take up much of our space but we try to keep a wide variety of the main independents (Dark Horse, Image, etc) as well as many of the smaller independents (IDW, Avatar, Devils Due, Fantagraphics, etc.). We try to keep a wide range available and are always willing to special order anything we don’t have.

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 located within walking distance to Queen’s University and RMC (Royal Military College). We are also within walking distance of four high schools. Students therefore make up 70% of our demographic, and we intentionally set up our store to capitalise on this.

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?

In the comic book industry, there seems to be a prevailing “mom’s basement” mentality when it comes to retail. So many stores feel like someone with a little money and a large collection just decided to set up shop. Just think of The Android’s Dungeon from The Simpsons, dank, dark, and cluttered. With this stigma in mind, we designed the store to be the opposite and our response in the community has been ecstatic. According to our Facebook demographic, 42% of our clientele is female. We also make sure to keep a large assortment of kid friendly comics on hand for children in the store.

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?

We started with a large assortment but much of our higher-end comics sold quickly and have been hard to restock. While we have a large back-issue bin, our trade paperbacks sell much faster than our back issues.

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

Our main form of advertising takes place on Facebook. We have found that bang-for-buck, Facebook’s ability to target a demographic by age, sex, school, and distance from the store, then properly deliver advertising is not only affordable but invaluable. Our other forms of advertising include Golden Words, the Queen’s University satire paper, AND Welcome Back Magazine, a free magazine distributed at Queen’s, RMC, and St Lawrence College. We also rely on general 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 love the idea of pull lists. Pull lists give us a gauge on the popularity of titles so we can adjust our orders with the least amount of overstock. Pull-lists have been highly useful with our university students who wish for us to keep their files open while they are away for the summer break. We offer a 15% discount to pull list regulars and give free bags and boards for their comics. We do not charge any fee but ask for a two-month notice if they will be closing their account.

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?

We currently do not have any computerized point of sale but we are considering one in the future.

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