Phoenix Comics NW open it’s doors as the 90’s comic bubble was bursting. Though persistence and diversity the store has maintained a strong position amongst Calgary’s abundant comic shops.
Owner’s Name: Michael Bower
Manager’s Name: Russell Heitzmann
Number of Employees: 6
Years in Business: 16 (1994)
Physical Address: 1010 16th Ave NW Calgary, AB
Telephone Number: 403-220-1399
How did you choose your store name?
The owner of our South location previously owned a store which burned down. The new store was named after the phoenix, a mythical bird which rises from its ashes when it is consumed by fire.
How many sq ft is your store? 3000
Favorite Comic Book, published in the past few months: Walking Dead
Five all-time classic comics, graphic novels or story arcs
V for Vendetta
Grendel War Child
What upcoming books are you excited about in the near future?
I’m always way behind in my reading, but I’m really looking forward to reading The Sword by the Luna Bothers now that it is complete.
What interesting things are you planning in the next 12 months to make your store even better?
We are looking at adding more regular events. Also, we are going to be carrying more plushes (mostly Nintendo and Anime related stuff) and possibly a return to carrying board games.
What has been one of the most rewarding parts of running your business?
It is never boring, and I’m not stuck in a cubicle working hard for someone else.
What has been one of the biggest challenges?
Staying on top of trends is always challenging.
Why are you a comics retailer?
Taking Engineering at university sucked!
Product Lines Carried:
Comics and Graphic Novels of course. Manga, Anime, Toys, Magic the Gathering, other games, collecting supplies, Art books, Statues.
Best selling floppy/monthly books: Amazing Spider-man
Best selling manga: Naruto
What percentage of your business is comics compared to the peripherals of a ‘culture store’?
Comics and Graphic Novels make up just under 50% of our sales.
What are your Best selling graphic novel/TPB books? Walking Dead
What books do you find yourself recommending the most?
Walking Dead, Sandman, Y the Last Man, Preacher, The Boys, Fables, Batman Hush, Batman Long Halloween, Dark Knight Returns
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?
Walking Dead or Y the Last Man for non-superhero
Invincible or Green Lantern for superhero.
How important is the web to your business?
We do not sell online, but we use it for advertising.
Does your store have an area of expertise? What makes your store unique in your market?
We have the biggest Manga selection in the city by far. We also have the best Magic the Gathering selection.
Describe the comic book scene within your community? (e.g.: amateur comics, anime/manga clubs, comic clubs, convention events) How do you help foster and support your comic community?
We make annual donations to a number of high school and university manga/comic clubs. We attend all the local comic and manga shows.
Do you participate in Free Comic Book Day?
In a limited fashion.
What aspect of your store are you most proud?
Our continued growth and our ability to adapt to a changing market.
Do you have special event nights/days at the store? What have been some or your best/most fun promotions/events?
We currently run a number of events for the various games we sell. The most successful are definitely the Magic Pre-release events.
Have the last few years of Hollywood film releases changed your customer base?
Graphic Novels have been a growth product for large bookstore chains, does this affect your customer base or business?
Not really. They generally have much less selection than we do. The chain bookstores are more like a feeder system for new readers before they discover us.
With the increasing popularity of GN’s/TPB’s do you find yourself stocking these more or less than you expected?
We stock almost all GNs and TPBs and expect to continue to do that in the future.
There are a lot of upfront cost in a large TPB inventory, are you focusing on a publisher or specific series?
No. In fact, single issues have a much larger up front cost as they have a very short shelf life as compared to TPBs.
Is there a publisher or format or genre or style of comic you feel you should do a better job of stocking in your store?
Not currently. We let a products sales justify how many we carry.
Do you intend to carry a wider range of publishers in the future or would these books be special orders only?
Our point of sales system lets us identify books which deserve more or less space. We are actually looking at carrying less publishers as ‘in-stock items’, as many brands we have been carrying do not sell enough to justify their shelf space.
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 of schools influence your decision to open at your current location? What is great about your current location?
We have a large technical college located a block away. We do not have hard numbers on what percentage of our customers come from there, but it is definitely a big plus for this location. It was a factor in our choice of locations. Our current location is at the junction of two major city roads and close to the mentioned technical school. It is also close to city transit and centrally located with in the city and also has ample parking.
All comic retailers believe they have a women friendly store. What do you do that makes your store ‘women friendly’? What percentage of your business is female?
We carry a very large selection of manga and especially yaoi, which brings in a large percentage of our female business. I am unsure of the percentage, but as I type this our last 3 customers in a row were women.
All comic retailers believe they have a child friendly store. What do you do that makes your store ‘kid friendly’? What do you stock in your kids comics section that makes it a great kids section? What percentage of your business are under 14 years old?
We stock most available children’s comics, but we stock most available comics of all genres. Sales to the under 14 market would be much less than 1% of our sales. In fact, our kid’s section is more a service to our regular customers with children than an attempt to be ‘kid friendly’. In our experience, the entry point for new readers is now the 15-20 age group (high school to university).
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? Has there been a change in the way you give floor space to back stock comics?
We no longer carry back issues at all. The last 5 years or so that we did was mostly out of sentimental feelings as their sales did not justify their space. When we opened in 1994 back issues were 50% of the business, when we finally quit they made up less than 1%.
What form of advertising do you use (city newspaper, small/free papers, TV, radio, flyers, word of mouth)? Is there anything unique you have done to advertise your business? Do you believe advertising would make a difference to your business?
We use a number of internet options, plus our booth presence at conventions. Also we have a very large back lit sign on a busy city street. We believe most if not all traditional forms of advertising are a waste of money.