Comic Store in Your Future: Rodman Comics Has an Identity Crisis

Posted by March 10, 2018 Comment

Rod Lamberti of Rodman Comics writes weekly for Bleeding Cool. Find previous columns here.

Brad MeltzerFebruary was a great month. This year has not been a typical year, where things start out slow and gradually pick up as summer gets closer. There were some not-good days thanks to the weather, but with one store in central Iowa closing suddenly, January became a busy month.

My original thinking of ordering for a typically slow start of the year was quickly followed by upping orders as fast as possible. Marvel finally saw some good news in store. Amazing Spider-Man finally jumped up out of single-digit sales, and people are excited about the current storyline. In today’s market, increasing sales on a title is tough to do. Avengers and Thanos are also seeing the renewed excitement — which as a retailer is great.

Last year the store saved a lot of money by lowering the payroll. I didn’t let anyone go, I just didn’t replace people. I even cut the hours of the store this year. We posted signs in store and on Facebook and told everyone we could that we were shortening the hours. Other than a few people being surprised by the new hours, it has gone really well.

Thursdays have seen a drop in sales while FridaySaturday, and Sunday have actually seen an increase. It’s almost like some people are now not taking the store for granted as we’ve cut hours, so they think, “I’d better get in there and get my comics.” Human nature is odd. Many times with minutes left till we close people will show up in a hurry to get in instead of waiting until the next day.

February was a very profitable month for the store. In the store’s over seven-year history, I have never had such a low payroll payout. I was on hand more, of course. Worked a lot. Very happy with the cash on hand after the month was done. Cash on hand is good for a business, of course.

With the shortening of the store’s hours, though, there are drawbacks. One drawback is people starting the rumor that is the store must be hurting for money, and that’s why the hours were cut. That said, there are always plenty of rumors about any comic store. I have had people come in and tell the wildest stories about other stores — so just another rumor won’t affect things too much. Another drawback is that I am tired. Last Sunday was our Rod Deals, which was busy as heck (which is good). I had an employee scheduled to work with me, but he got sick and couldn’t make it in. Thankfully, I later had another show up for the end of the day. At least at the end of the day, my tiredness came off as funny. I drank a Duff energy drink that my employee said had been here for years. So people were joking about what aftereffects might happen. Did I have my life insurance paid up? Then, after shouting out the auction winners, I went over to the checkout counter to ring up the person and was so tired I shouted out the total like I was still shouting out auction winners. Everyone laughed, at least — including me.

The day went well. Lots of socializing with the customers and laughter. People were having a good time at the store. We even had people say how much they liked the store. Typically it’s human nature to take something such as the store for granted, since it has been around for so long.

Now I need to make some decisions. Do I hire more people? If so, how many more people? The pros of fewer staff members mean less money being spent. No one is stealing from the store. Low shrinkage. Shrinkage is the loss of inventory that can be attributed to factors such as employee theft, shoplifting, administrative error, vendor fraud, and cashier errors that benefit the customer. Theft by employees is a sad fact for many retail stores and stores that have been around for years. Not everyone steals, of course, but it’s prevalent. And if I hire more people, will they stay? Training people takes time. Retail has a high turnover rate. Currently, the economy is showing low unemployment. Jobs are out there.

Do I power through and keep piling up cash? If I keep trying to be a mostly solo act, then the store has no value — meaning I have no crew in place to make it run on its own. If someone wants to buy a business, one that is fully functional without the owner it is more valued.

When I shopped at Dragonfire Comics, I liked the fact that there would be only one or two people to deal with. I knew them both and became friends with one of the owners. There were no employees. Two owners and that was it.

There are people who like it when I am at my store. They know me. Familiarity can be comforting. However, a store that has procedures and people in place that mostly runs itself has more value.

I often joke that my plans never go as intended — that I should have planned on being broke and an anti-social person, and it would have turned out the opposite. When I opened the store, my business plan didn’t work. To be frank, I had to reverse course on many plans to make the store profitable. That free gaming we had? Big time money sink.

I would love to be here all the time, but the fact is something will happen to cause me to not be able to make it in. I may get sick. I will want to go vacation.

Wizard World is coming back to Des Moines, Iowa. It’s popular. Central Iowa is starved for good comic cons. Our low population base makes big comic cons hard to come by. A part of me wants to just go as a fan — walk the floor and get commissions from various artists. I got Mike Grell and Buzz commissions of Green Arrow from a previous Wizard World Des Moines, and I thoroughly enjoy them. Talking with Buzz, I learned a lot. I let him know I enjoyed his art on the old JSA title. Would love to see him back on a monthly book. But another part of me wants to have a booth for Rodman Comics at the show, like we did last time. That, of course, requires employees. I would want to be at the booth representing the store again while employees manned the store. Wizard World is a big draw. People still tell me they learned about Rodman Comics thanks to us being at Wizard World. Stan Lee being in Iowa for a show is something I never thought would happen. Wizard World got it done last year.

So how many people do I hire? How many will stay? Will I get greedy and just want to play it safe to see cash flow? Will more employees produce more cash flow? What to do what to do? If you have any suggestions, let me know.

(Last Updated March 9, 2018 5:39 pm )

Send this to a friend