Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 35


In 1984 I owned two comic book and collectables stores, one in Worcester, and one in Maynard, Massachusetts. Although the Maynard store was profitable, it wasn’t making enough money to keep me excited about the extra work necessary to keep it going. One store is a lot of work and most people think it would be twice as much work to have two stores. I believe it’s much more than that. With more than one store, there’s more effort spent moving merchandise from store to store. There are more employees to hire, train and schedule. Although I had purchased one of my most memorable comic book collections because of the Maynard store, I just wasn’t interested in expending the time and effort to build the store into a high profit location.

After running it for a little over a year, I decided to close the Maynard store. I wrote a letter explaining the situation to all of my customers and I offered a short-term incentive for them to begin shopping at our Worcester store. I knew that some customers would be intimidated by the big city of Worcester so I encouraged them to shop at the comic book store owned by my cousin Steven Higgins in Waltham, Massachusetts. Many of them still shop there almost twenty years later!

My Worcester store was becoming well known for the great inventory of old comic books that we had in stock and the local newspapers would run stories when we located rare and expensive comics like the first Superman or Batman comic book. The extra publicity in these large circulation newspapers would encourage other people in the area to sell us their collections of old comics, toys, records, and trading cards. With a very limited budget for advertising, we were thrilled to get this kind of free publicity. It would have cost us hundreds of dollars for an advertisement and many people would pass right by it, but most people would be interested in reading an article about us, especially if there was a photograph included.

The local newspapers were very cooperative in the mid-1980’s. Comic books and baseball cards were the subject of many large articles and the editors were happy to be able to include us as local interest subjects. We bought new collections almost every day. Not all of them were rare or old collectables, but I’d buy them anyway. I had planned to be in business for many years so I knew that I’d eventually need even these more recent items. Although our sales were very good, I decided to plan an “event” to have some fun with my customers. I sent out flyers to everyone on my mailing list inviting them to an auction at my store. I selected a bunch of comic books and toys specifically for the auction. There was an empty lot behind my store so I decided to have the auction there. There were about 150 people at the store for this auction. I did the auctioning myself and had a fun time joking around with my customers. The customers seemed to enjoy it because we decided to start each item with no minimum bid. Many of the items went cheap, but some items sold for more than we expected. It was a bright sunny day and it was strange to watch my customers getting more sunburned with each passing hour. When the auction was over most of the customers came into the store and spent whatever money they had left on our regular store inventory.

This was so successful that we were now determined to plan other special events for our customers. We didn’t want our store to be just a place for people to spend money, we wanted our store to be remembered as a fun place to come to and hang out in.

Next Chapter: Howley’s Folly

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