COVID-19 and Comics

I was personally hoping to avoid the topic of COVID-19 here on Scavenger’s Holocron as I did not want it to impact the fun and love of Star Wars.  Well, this week we have received news on many fronts regarding COVID-19 and how it impacts many parts of the industry.   We are receiving news daily that production is shutting down on future seasons of our favorite television shows, or movies halting production due to sick cast members, well it finally has hit the comic industry.

The largest distributor in the comic industry, Diamond, stated this week that they were pausing future shipments until further notice.  They, themselves, stopped receiving shipments to their warehouses from printers for distribution of new products in April.

The founder of Diamond, Steve Geppi issued an official statement confirming and helping to clarify the decision while outlining the current timeframe for its change in operation.

Geppi’s full statement can be seen below:

CORONAVIRUS EFFECTS ON DISTRIBUTION

As everyone knows, the world faces ever-increasing challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Its effects on the comics & collectibles and tabletop gaming industries have been felt far and wide. We are hearing from thousands of retailers that they can no longer service their customers as they have in the past, many of them forced to close by government action or resort to in-person or curbside delivery. Even those still open are seeing reduced foot traffic in most cases, a situation that seems likely to worsen with time.

Our publishing partners are also faced with numerous issues in their supply chain, working with creators, printers, and increasing uncertainty when it comes to the production and delivery of products for us to distribute. Our freight networks are feeling the strain and are already experiencing delays, while our distribution centers in New York, California, and Pennsylvania were all closed late last week. Our own home office in Maryland instituted a work from home policy, and experts say that we can expect further closures. Therefore, my only logical conclusion is to cease the distribution of new weekly product until there is greater clarity on the progress made toward stemming the spread of this disease.

EFFECTS ON DIAMOND COMIC DISTRIBUTORS

Product distributed by Diamond and slated for an on-sale date of April 1st or later will not be shipped to retailers until further notice. For the time being, however, we have been able to develop procedures with our teams at the distribution center in Olive Branch, MS to safely continue fulfillment of direct ship reorders for the retailers who are able to receive new product and need it to service their customers. It’s unlikely that orders will be filled on the same day they are placed, and these plans are subject to change if at any point we no longer feel that we can safeguard our teams while fulfilling orders.

Product distributed by Diamond UK and slated for an on-sale date of March 25th or later will not be shipped to retailers until further notice. Further updates with regard to reorders and other Diamond UK-specific information will be communicated directly to their customers as information becomes available.

EFFECTS ON ALLIANCE GAME DISTRIBUTORS

Product distributed by Alliance has been shipping from our Fort Wayne, IN and Austin, TX warehouses. Both are closing at the end of the day on Tuesday, March 24th, in the interest of employee safety and to comply with direction from local governments. Any orders not shipped by that time will not be processed until further notice. Your dedicated sales team will still be working remotely and will help you with any orders you’d like to place today or questions you may have.

OUR SHARED PATH FORWARD

With these changes in our distribution strategy, we will work with our publishing partners to develop programs that will address product already in the pipeline and what will happen when we resume distribution. We know that during this time you will face many challenges, and we will direct our energies toward addressing them, rather than fighting on increasingly numerous fronts to get product out.

For those retailers who remain open in various forms, I encourage you let loose your own creativity. For the time being, you will be able to replenish your perennials from Diamond and/or Alliance, but you should also remember the stock you already have in your stores. If your doors remain open, it’s likely you will have customers who will continue to seek diversion from events of the world. Special sales, promotions, and even eBay can help you bring in cash during this trying time. Product for which you’ve already paid may well hold some of your answers. There have been many solid suggestions offered about how to help our retailers, and we will bring many of them together in future communications.

Besides the industry’s most immediate needs, we have been and will continue looking toward the future, when we see stores reopening, bringing staff back onboard, and getting customers in the door. We are looking at issues like debt accrued due to this crisis, what reduced ordering means for your discount tiers, and the availability of credit to help stores through and after this difficult time. We don’t have all those answers today, but we understand the many issues you are facing and look forward to addressing them as partners who all have an interest in the long-term health of the industry we love so much.

As I mentioned in my last update, this industry has been one of the greatest joys of my life, from my days as a collector to a retailer to today. I and my Leadership Team have made these decisions knowing full-well the effect they will have on all of you, as well as our publishing partners and our own team members around the world. At the end of the day, the safety and security of our teams and yours, along with the many customers we all serve, is paramount. I again thank you for your ongoing patience and support.

Thank You,

Steve Geppi
Chairman & CEO, Geppi Family Enterprises

 

Please note that it does appear that if your local comic shop is still open then they can still reorder any comic that is available from Diamond that your store might be sold out of, at least for the time being.  Probably a great chance to catch up on any of the older titles you might be interested in that your local shop has in stock.  Just ask your local comic shop employees for their advice and I’m sure they can lead you in the right direction.

With all this being said, I’m sad to see a delay in future Star Wars stories.  I’m sad not to get my weekly dose of Star Wars comics.  However, I understand and respect the thought process behind the delay.  What this means when things return to the “status quo” is still a mystery.  Will, there be a pile of comics waiting at once, will they slowly issue them in waves until the schedule returns to normal, or will the comic industry be turned upside down?

My concern is that during this downtime comic stores are going to suffer, they depend on new comics to keep customers coming in the door every week for them to make a living.  There is a market for buying and selling older comics but I don’t think that is enough to keep a storefront open and operating. If you enjoy comics and have a few extra dollars it might be worth picking up a couple of extra comics (older issues) during this downturn.  That might make the difference in if you have a comic shop still to shop at after this virus has made its rounds.   If this is a short term event then we should expect things to return to normal however if things extend out for months then I foresee some shops staying shuttered indefinitely.

There are concerns floating around the internet that the publishers might move to online content to help cover the gap while the distribution centers aren’t receiving and shipping new content.  That would be great for comic lovers but what would that mean for comic shops?  Would publishers want to move to an online version of comics only in the future?  Would this be a means for publishers to cut out comic shops all together?  I love my comics but I also love my local comic shop as well, so I’m not okay with the idea of getting my comics at the risk of losing my local comic shop.  What I would love to see, if the publishers still want to publish while the distributors are out of service, is that the publishers/distributors provide online codes for the comic shops to sell for online viewing and then once the distributors are back operating normally they provide the physical copy of the comic for “free”.   This is the similar only reverse of what many publishers do now in the sense that if you purchase a physical copy of a comic then you get a digital code for online viewing.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed and see what the future holds.  In the meantime reach out to the publishers and let them know you concerns and what you think would work best to keep us receiving our comics and keep our comic shops in business.

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