Marvel Comics announced plans to assist retailers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Marvel President Dan Buckley released a statement in Diamond's mailer to retailers today unveiling the company's plans. The announcement emphasizes additional discounts for all titles released between March 18 and April 8. It frames the decision to provide further discounts as a first, necessary step in supporting a retail economy already harmed by various quarantine measures taken across the United States, and leaves the door open to further changes as the situation continues to evolve.
The announcement states that retailers will receive "extensive deep discounts (adjusted on top of existing discounts retailers have in place)." All existing discounts will remain, even if retailers decrease their existing orders. The scale of these discounts and how they will be determined remains unclear, and may vary between retailers. These discounts are intended to preserve cash on hand for retailers. Decreased cost for new inventory may allow retailers to continue purchasing additional inventory, paying employees and addressing other payments (e.g. utilities, rent) for a longer period of time.
The statement also suggests that Marvel Comics is not considering making their products returnable. Buckley says the emphasis on discounts will "remove the burden on comic shops to dedicate resources and staff to process returns at a future date."
These discounts currently extend through April 8, including three future release dates (March 25, April 1, and April 8). It remains unclear whether this timeframe will be sufficient as closures and cancellations have already extended into the early summer months. Buckley's statement makes clear that this is an evolving situation and there will be additional updates in the weeks ahead.
The announcement also states that Marvel Comics will "amplify and create awareness about retailer efforts to provide services." This reflects work at many local comic book stores to work around quarantine restrictions to continue providing services for customers. Some stores have already instituted curbside pickups and a variety of delivery options, in addition to pull lists while customers are away.
Other direct market publishers have released their own plans to support retailers during this difficult time, including Image Comics creating a new return policy. Image Comics' publisher Eric Stephenson previously called on the entire industry to make a concerted effort to support retailers, referring to Marvel Comics and DC Comics outsized roles in the market. DC Comics has not released any plans to support their retail partners as of this moment.
Retailers are still being made aware of the new discounts and making decisions about how to continue a business that relies on hand-selling and regular, weekly sales. The response by Marvel Comics today and various publishers throughout the last week provides some relief. It remains an open question as to whether it will be enough to prevent mass closures as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.