Image Comics is making a move to help ease the stress on comic book stores during the coronavirus pandemic. With the population self-quarantining, getting customers into stores right now is a challenge. That problem is set to get worse today. This is the final order cutoff date for comics shipping in early April. That means that comic store owners will have to lock in there orders for new books today with no further opportunity to adjust. This is always a gamble for comic shop owners since any books they order are non-returnable. If they underorder, they run the risk of selling out. But with the coronavirus pandemic, stores are set up for a significant loss if they order normally and see a drastic reduction in customers.
According to Brian Hibbs, ComicsPro co-founder and owner of the California-based ComixExperience chain, Image Comics is going to make its upcoming comics returnable during the global health crisis. If this is true, then Image Comics is setting itself up to eat a significant amount of the loss that would have otherwise fallen on retailers.
Hibbs said this in a post on Facebook, where he vented a bit about the situation San Francisco. The city went into mandatory lockdown at midnight Tuesday morning. Here's what he had to say:
"San Francisco business is being shut down in the whole Bay Area, so I went to redo FOC for the week, right before the deadline… I sent an email to my top five suppliers asking if they were going to be offer returnability on the other end of this -- I have three weeks of orders in the pipeline, and zero ability to sell those books in a meaningful way.
"Two of the five ignored me, the other two gave me really really dark answers and it is clear they are using each other as excuses, and only one, Image, stepped right up and said 'Yep, returnable for now'. It's probably only 80% of the reassurance I want, but at least it is something. I CUT THE S--T OUT OF MY NEW FOC ORDER -- 20% nearly across the board, and several things cut 50% or more. Thanks for the reassurance, folks!"
Hibbs doesn't name any names other than Image, but his top suppliers are most likely the comics publishers with the biggest market share. According to Diamond Comic Distributors' report on February's top-selling products, Image Comics holds the third-largest share of the market. The "big two" publishers together hold more than three-quarters of the total market. Marvel Comics was the top publisher in February with 47 percent of the market by units sold. DC Comics was second with 30 percent.
Bleeding Cool was first to report on Hibbs' statement.