Comic Book Store Owner's Biggest Mistakes
If you are thinking of opening a comic book store, here are some of the biggest mistakes that comic book store (and probably every other collectible store) owners make.  I have seen it happen time and time again.  I have even made some myself.  These are the kind of things that will kill your business quickly.  I hope these help you to run a successful store.

Mistake #1 - Opening with too little capital
I cannot tell you how many times I saw someone with a big collection of comics open a store.  They had a few thousand dollars to start with and a big collection of books.  You see them with cheap tables set up, no display cases and a box as a cash register.  They put a hand written sign in the window and pass out some cheap flyers.  And then you see a going out of business sale in about six months.  This is one of the biggest reasons why the average comic book store does not make it one year.  They go in with little money in the bank and just hope the store will take off and they will have money rolling in. 

If you want to have a decent chance, you should have enough money in the bank to cover all your major expenses for at least one year, if not two.  By major expenses, I mean rent, utilities, insurance, advertising and wages.  And this does not include the initial costs you will incur for fixtures, equipment, alarm system and a sign.  The more you have in the bank, the better your chances are.  Most businesses lose money for the first three years and it is not uncommon to not make a profit until after five years.  So be prepared for this and you will be in good shape.

Mistake #2 - Not paying taxes
This may seem like a no brainer but I know of at least four comic stores that were shut down for this very reason.  Nothing will sink a store faster than not paying your taxes and by taxes I mean sales tax, employee taxes and any city/federal/state taxes.  It is best to get a good accountant to take care of this.  Remember when you do not pay your taxes on time, you will be hit with penalties and interest.  It will add up very fast and if you put it off too long, you may come in and find a padlock on your front door and everything confiscated.  I have seen it happen and it is not pretty.  If there is one company you do not want to mess with, it is the government.  Pay your taxes and pay them on time.

Mistake #3 - Being a collector
I cannot tell you how many dealers that I know that also collect.  While it is alright to have a small collection and it is very important to read the books, nothing will limit your cash flow than being a collector and keeping the best stuff for yourself.  Can you think of any other successful business where you pay money for merchandise and then keep all the best merchandise for yourself?  How long would a car dealer be in business if he kept all the best trade-ins?  If you are a big time collector, do not open a store.  It is a recipe for disaster.  Instead sell at comic shows where your losses are much less.  Do not look at a comic store as a means to improve your collection.

Mistake #4 - Not advertising
I can admit to being guilty of this myself.  If you want to have a successful comic store and get a stream of new clients, you need to advertise.  And just having the free ad in the phone book is not enough.  You need to put an advertising budget into your expenses and stick to it.  When it comes to advertising, try to be creative.  Sure it would be nice to advertise on TV and with cable channels, it may be a reality.  Radio is another possibility.  Both can be expensive, so make sure to not blow your whole budget on one ad.  Flyers are a cheap alternative, it should not be your only advertising.  Be creative and think of where your potential customers go.  Whether it is the movies or game stores or whatever, think of doing co-op ads with these companies.

Mistake #5 - Ordering too much
I must admit that I got caught up in this trap a few times (I will put up a story about ordering too many Image books later).  Nothing will eat up your profits faster than backstock.  Sure we all wish that we had multiple copies of the hottest book but for every Ultimate Spiderman #1, you will end up with a bunch of fodder that just takes up space.  Most back stock and I do mean most will never sell at full price or if it does, it will take years.  Keep your backstock to a minimum and use that money and space for faster moving, more profitable items.  Trust me, the majority of comics end up in the bargain bins within a few months.  Buy them later for a quarter or fifty cents if you have an urge to fill your store with backstock.  A good rule of thumb is to order one extra issue for every ten you sell.  So if you sell 100 issues of X-Men, then order 110 copies and you have ten extra copies.  I would rather sell out of a book then have it as backstock.

I will put more up as I think of them, but these are a good place to start.  Take it from someone who had a store for 13 years and then sold online for another six years, take the business serious or you will be in serious trouble.  While it is a fun business, it is also a very risky business.  You are selling something that is a luxury item and the first thing people cut when they are feeling the financial pinch.



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Tom Zjaba 1997 - 2015      

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