Comic Hunter Moncton recently moved into a larger location. This interview was conducted with Store Manager Remi Vienneau LeClair.
Owner’s Name: Jeff Smith
Manager’s Name: Remi Vienneau LeClair
Number of Employees: 3 to 5
Years in Business: 5 Years
Physical Address: 465 Main Street, Moncton, NB, E1C 1C2
Telephone Number: (506) 855-4950
How did you choose your store name?
We’re a sister store to another shop in Charlottetown and while this one is largely run differently than the other it does share the same owner, hence the same name. Not sure why he chose it other than the obvious: we’re the “Comic Hunters”!
How many sq ft is your store? 2000 +/-
Favorite Comic Book, published in the past few months:
Thor: The Mighty Avenger has me quite impressed!
Favourite all-time classic comic, graphic novel or story arc
Batman: Year One
What upcoming books are you excited about in the near future?
The future of Daredevil, post-Shadowland
What interesting things are you planning in the next 12 months to make your store even better?
Renovations to the location by the owner of the building will allow us to redo our layout, expand our graphic novel sections and toy selection all without taking away from any of the other products we already offer.
What has been one of the most rewarding parts of running your business?
Being able to work with, and talk about, my favorite pass time all day long!
What has been one of the biggest challenges?
Being the “new guy” in town.
Why are you a comics retailer?
Always been a passion of mine. )ur focus on back issues is partially my own doing as I’m a collector at heart and feel that it is a side of the business that is slowly being ignored by a lot of stores. We want to be “the” back issue store for the Maritimes and Eastern Canada.
Product Lines Carried:
new comics, back issues, graphic novels/tpbs, used TPBs, toys, tshirts, board games, CCG, RPGs, Manga, Starfleet Battles
Best selling floppy/monthly books
Currently it’s pretty close call between Brightest Day, Wolverine, and the re-launched Avengers titles. Green Lantern and Amazing Spider-Man have been the most consistent, with Thor and a few others not far behind.
Best selling manga
Best selling manga would probably be Death Note.
What percentage of your business is comics compared to the peripherals of a ‘culture store’?
50%-75%, Magic: The Gathering does well when new editions are released but slows down as it gets further away, while comics are more regular.
What are your Best selling graphic novel/TPB books?
Walking Dead, which outsells my second, Fables, almost 2 to 1
What books do you find yourself recommending the most?
Walking Dead, Fables, Invincible, Amazing Spider-Man, Avengers, Green Lantern
What great comic/manga should everyone under 14 be reading?
The Stuff of Legend
What comic/manga would you recommend for an adult interested in returning to comics?
current relaunch of the Avengers books is a great jumping on point.
How important is the web to your business?
We mostly network/promote with the web, so while it is important we haven’t turned it into a selling tool beyond back and forth emails. We like doing things face to face, or talking/emailing directly with customers.
Does your store have an area of expertise? What makes your store unique in your market?
Largest selection of graphic novels in the Maritimes, largest “on display” selection of back issues.
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?
A handful of amateur comics are produced locally, all sold at our store. The local libraries hold book clubs, one hosted by my wife who is a librarian. We also host our own book club once a month. Animaritime hits town once a year, although we haven’t participated in the past, having only recently starting to carry manga. Hal-Con is next month and we’re taking part by hosting a table and running gaming events. One of our employees is looking to start a comic-jam in the near future. We also donate to the library occasionally. Have given comic books to teachers and offered deep discounts to anyone from the library/schools. Sponsored a few local events, both comic and non-comic related.
Do you participate in Free Comic Book Day?
What aspect of your store are you most proud?
It’s a tie between our friendly staff and our back issue/TPB selection!
Do you have special event nights/days at the store? What have been some or your best/most fun promotions/events?
– Comic Cafe every Wednesday nights, once a month for Book Club.
– Board Game night on Thursday
– RPG nights on Monday and Wednesday
– Starfleet Battles on Tuesday
– Magic: The Gathering every Friday
– Varying events on Saturdays (magic, battletech, other)
– FCBD is always the most fun, and we’ve been getting bigger every year!
Have the last few years of Hollywood film releases changed your customer base?
Probably, but it’s been a steady increase since we’ve opened. Specific books sell better with the movies.
Graphic Novels have been a growth product for large bookstore chains, does this affect your customer base or business?
It’s been tough to get into the manga market as Chapters/Indigo has a pretty good grasp on the customer base, but local stores haven’t been able to compete with our stock/knowledge of graphic novels.
With the increasing popularity of GN’s/TPB’s do you find yourself stocking these more or less than you expected?
We try to stock everything, and have been steadily increasing since we opened.
There are a lot of upfront cost in a large TPB inventory, are you focusing on a publisher or specific series?
Specific ones certainly sell better, and we make sure to have an overstock of these at all times, but we try to have as much variety of in print books as possible!
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? Do you intend to carry a wider range of publishers in the future or would these books be special orders only?
We would love to carry more Fantagraphics, Drawn & Quartery and Top Shelf book, but many of their books go out of print very fast, so it’s harder to keep a in-depth selection. We overstock on ones that we expect to sell better, but space is always a factor.
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?
The nearest high school is about a 15 minute walk away, with a college and university within half an hour. Our decision to move wasn’t affected by an intention to increase our student customer base, although we hopped to get more by moving next to a video/record store. My student percentage is very low, maybe 5%
We certainly try to keep a good stock of books that would be called “women friendly”, and I honestly don’t give much presence to what I consider to be pretty “misogynist” titles like Lady Death or Tarot, although I do carry enough to meet the demand for them. Overall I’d like to think that I have a gender-neutral store where the stock and service speaks for itself.
– Unfortunately, our female clientele is still pretty small, probably no more than 5%
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 have our recent kids comics at the front door as you come in, along with our wide selection of Archie/other digests. We also have a shelf next to the cash register dedicated to kids books (Marvel Adventures, DC Kids, Bone, Boom! Kids, Archie, Sonic, Top Shelf Kids, Mouse Guard, and a variety of others). Also, Our kids back issue section is over 6 long boxes of different issues.
– Most of the books sold for kids are bought by their parents, but between actual kids and kids comics being bought for kids, it might be as high as 10% during the summer, a little less in the winter.
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?
For sure! Our primary focus has always been and will hopefully always be “floppy” comics, with a large focus on back issues. Estimated to be currently over 50,000 different issues on display as well as multiples of that number in doubles and unsorted books. We’re always looking to pick me up old collections. Our stock all depends on what is found, but we try to get one of everything! With our larger store, we’ve been able to expend what we have on display for smaller presses significantly. We’re always behind on pricing, as we sort too fast!
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 advertise via outdoor billboards, as well as through sponsorship for local events (music shows, fairs, a “classic” movie night, a handout for downtown businesses, a yearly local business coupon book). Lots of word of mouth, and online networking as well. We strongly believe in advertising, but believe that with our kind of business, it needs to be a bit more focused.