Yesterday, while the little one was enjoying having a few sleepovers with Nana and Papa, Jason and I decided to take a shopping trip. At first the plan was to drive to PEI via the bridge and just hang out there until all the shops were closed, but there turned out to not be that many geeky-stuff-carrying shops in PEI, so we spent the first half of the day there before driving off to Moncton to hit a few more stores and then heading home. All in all, among other stores, we hit six “comics and/or collectibles” shops, and they all got me thinking about things that are frustrating about these kinds of shops and/or contribute to their eventual failure as small businesses. So I thought I’d share a few of these complaints and see if anyone agrees.
Complaint #1: Comic shops that ONLY have comics.
This one might sound odd because, logically, the key aspect of a comic shop is to have comics, right? And for the record, the shop that prompted this complaint had a lot of comics – both individual books and trade paperbacks – so it definitely had that going for it. However, it’s my personal belief that if a comic shop really wants to attract customers, it should have a few more things than just comics. It should have collectibles of comic characters, for instance. Figures, small toys, that kind of thing. Perhaps some comic-related apparel, art, or even novelty items. You don’t have to go nuts and have some of every collectible item you can get your hands on, but the fact of the matter is that people like myself and Jason will search your shop, drop in to see what you have, and become very disappointed to find out that it’s only comics. Granted this shop did have a very small group of figures above some of the comic shelves, but it was barely enough to even be noticeable in the veritable sea of comics. Honestly, expand your stock a little and you’ll probably attract more customers.
Complaint #2: Refusing to adhere to your own hours.
The shop that sparked this complaint may have actually closed down and simply failed to remove the sign outside their shop – we’re not entirely sure because it was a basement shop and all we could tell from the door was that there were a few boxes of comics strewn on the floor at the bottom of the stairs. That said, we’ve had this issue with other shops before as well, so it bears mentioning. If your hours are posted as opening at 11:00 am, the goddamn door should be open at 11 on the nose, if not earlier. We’ve waited outside comic and collectible shops for nearly half an hour past opening and not seen a hint of movement inside. Once we were actually standing outside the door, staring at the owners inside as they talked to each other, and they failed to open the doors until about a quarter past the hour. The particular shop from yesterday? It was supposed to open at 11, didn’t, and when we came back at about 2 pm it still wasn’t open. No sign on the door or anything. What the literal hell? If there’s an excellent way to turn off prospective customers, that’s certainly it.
Complaint #3: Having ridiculous hours that don’t follow any normal store system.
This complaint actually doesn’t come from yesterday’s trip, but from previous trips to a store that’s a few hours from us. It’s hours are completely nonsensical. It’s only open on four non-consecutive days a week, and during different hours on each of those particular days. Why even have your own shop if you can’t commit to having it open on a normal schedule so that people can actually shop there?
Complaint #4: Shops that are effectively impossible to find.
I’ll grant that the issue with this one is that many shop owners are doing their best to find the cheapest possible rent, because renting a shop is outrageous and can completely demolish your possible profits. That said, if no one can find your shop, or if it’s so completely nondescript that people walk right past it without even noticing it, you’re not going to get any customers! The store from the previous complaint is in a small room above a Home Hardware building. Unless you just happen to be at that store and look up to the second-floor windows and notice that there are a few superhero posters and an “Open” sign up there, you’d never know that the store exists. There’s no outside advertising in a place where people would actually notice it; there’s not even a sign on the outside door saying that there’s a separate shop upstairs. The only reason we know about the shop is because it once existed in its own building, and when we asked another shop owner where it had gone, they directed us to the spot. Otherwise? It’s practically invisible.
Complaint #5: Shops that host tabletop gaming/card game tournaments right in the middle of the store.
Now let me quickly say: I have absolutely no problem with gaming tournaments in shops like this. In fact, it makes total sense, and is probably pretty good for business, as participants will likely buy their game figures/cards/etc at the store in question. Where it becomes a frustration is when the tournament takes over the entire store. I know of several stores who have special rooms or areas off to the side of the store set up specifically for these types of purposes, and that’s awesome. But I also know of several stores who simply cram every square inch of their small stores with tables and chairs, thus making it impossible for anyone NOT involved in the tournament to browse through the store without climbing over players. I have actively witnessed possible customers walk into a store, see the situation, and turn right the hell back out, because honestly? Who needs to deal with that?
Complaint #6: The pricing.
Look, I understand that small, privately owned businesses are going to have to charge more for something than, say, Walmart, in order to make a profit, because they don’t necessarily get the same deals on wholesale purchases, and alternatively can’t necessarily afford to buy things in wholesale batches, and thus get their items at a markup to themselves to begin with. That said, if one such small shop is charging $50 for a figure, and another such small shop is charging $100 for that exact same figure…who do you think I’m going to buy it from? On a related note: I personally think that charging secondary market prices for “special” or “rare” items in a primary market establishment is extremely skeezy. If your small store is getting the exact same box of Funko Pops for the exact same wholesale price, but you turn around and take out the Chase figure and sell it for whatever it’s currently going for on Ebay? Congratulations…I’m going to actively choose not to purchase those types of items from you.
A side note to this one: there is a particular figure of a Crysis character that I have seen. I don’t know what the original retail price of the figure is, because, to be honest, I never saw it in retail establishments when it originally came out. The first time I personally saw it was when it began appearing in Dollarama stores for $4. And since then, all of a sudden, I’ve seen it in nearly every comic and collectible shop in the Maritime provinces going for anywhere from $20 to $40. Again…SKEEZY. It’s obvious that many of these stores bought the figure from their local Dollarama and then skyrocketed the price in their own store. I can understand why people do things like this on the secondary market, hoping to make a few bucks on someone who never knew that the figure actually landed itself in a dollar store for failing to sell, but when a BUSINESS does it, it..it’s just not professional, guys. Come on.
I could probably come up with a few more complaints, to be honest, but these are ones that come up regularly whenever Jason and I go on our toy-hunting trips, and they never become any less frustrating. Have you experienced these kinds of issues at stores you frequent? Do you have any complaints that I haven’t listed here? Please feel free to share!