Johanna over at Comics Worth Reading comments on two different other blogs, (making this a third generation post, but what the hell) regarding retailing of the pamphlets vs the trades, and there are a few issues that we need to go over here.
Were this the top of the Hyatt at San Diego, we could do this with a couple of drinks in us and it would take a lot less time, but the lack of alcohol probably makes for a more solid (and less digressive) discussion. Lets discuss "wishing the competition away". Because I'm not so sure that that is the right way to look at.
Brian Hibbs and Lisa at Neptune are both making comments lamenting the change in the business that they're in, in Hibb's place, however, it is a fundamental change in the presentation of comics themselves, pamphlets vs the trades, and in Lisa's place it is the competition via the internet.
What is the role of the retailer with regards to the two items? Do people want to flip through their games and see what hot developer is working on their new game? I see the role of the retailer with regards to comics is not only a place to buy, but a place to expand upon the tastes of your consumers, to expand their buying habits. Any comic retailer that isn't putting new things into their customer's hands is missing out on expanding the market and using their ability to be hub of all things comics in their area. You can't depend on the current X-men reader just finding other works by themselves. You'll never get them into Powers without some work, and from there you might get them into Liberty Meadows and Samurai Jack and.... And that is how you try to keep those sales from declining. We've probably all gotten into some interesting conversations in the comic shop, some that we'd probably rather get out of quickly, but I'm sure that we've all heard a new artist's or book's name and decided to pick it up once or twice.
I completely disagree with Hibb's desire to see the trades made so unavailable that I, as a consumer, will be forced to go back to buying the floppies and searching in vain for that one back issue that he under-ordered. No thank you. Johanna very succinctly skewers that with: "That’s one way to deal with competition, to wish the competing, preferable product out of the market. Not a very forward-looking way, though." I want to see work in print for good. Can you imagine trying to get someone into Sandman or Fables and handing them a stack of pamphlets? They'd laugh at you. The comics retailers haven't had the energy or the push to change the business model, and now consumer tastes are forcing them to. And change sucks and its hard, but the people have spoken, and we can keep this medium alive and growing with better formats to present good work.
Lisa, on the other hand, is talking about the same competition that we've been hearing retailers yell about for 4 or 5 years now. And the question, again, is what role the retailer plays in gaming. Personally, I don't game, gave away my Playstation 1 years ago and thats pretty much been that. If the retailer is to survive, then there has to be a reason for the brick and mortar. If I can just get the stupid game online, then why am I driving down to a store? Johanna's line of "If the customer isn’t shopping from them anyway, what does it matter if they continue to exist?" is fair, but when she says that "I just find this attitude disheartening, because it makes clear that their interests are not mine.", it only appears as if her interests are scoring games as cheaply as possible. Is there any interest in being part of a local gaming community? If so, then you have to suck it up and support a local retailer, presumably one that pays taxes in your community and helps to provide actual jobs in your area. People everyday make a conscious decision to shop locally and support local businesses because they know that it trickles down to jobs, to property values, to local services. You, the retailer, simply need to give the consumer a reason to shop there.
There will always be the consumer who doesn't give a damn about anything but saving every last little penny, and then will complain that the quality product, game or comic, isn't being made anymore and they wonder why. The internet has certainly enabled certain things to be made available as such rock bottom prices that it has fundamentally changed the nature of retailing. Instead of killing off all the local stores, it has, in some places, revived the art of customer service long since thought killed off. Of course customers don't want things to be restricted, as Johanna phrases it, but that isn't what Mayfair is doing. Mayfair is looking to work with, and add some value to the brick and mortar representative of their games. After all, as long as Mayfair gets their wholesale on the games, why do you think that they care who sells them?