Have you loved comic books ever since you were a kid? While comics may have played an important role in your hobbies, comics could also play a central role in your business and entrepreneurial life, too. Starting a comic book store can be an exciting opportunity, and with some careful planning, your store could be a profitable, long-term business.
Comic book stores primarily exist to sell comics, but they serve other purposes, too. While comic book enthusiasts do go to stores to buy new products, they also go for the browsing experience, too. Many comic book stores hold special events like cosplays, parties, and gaming competitions, encouraging customers to spend extended periods of time at the store in more of a social setting.
While comic book stores may sell only comics, many stores branch out into related products like posters, collectibles, toys, and games. This extended inventory can help to draw current and returning customers into the store, and it may also encourage new customers to visit the store.
While data on comic book stores in the United States is limited, information about the overall industry can be inferred from IBIS World’s data on the comic book publishing industry. IBIS World reports that from 2015 to 2020, the industry’s growth correlated with the increase in consumer spending that occurred during that time. As of 2020, the comic book industry was an $839 million market with 173 publishers in business. IBIS World predicts that the industry will continue to grow from 2020 to 2025, but the COVID-19 pandemic and the reduction in spending will constrict the industry. It’s expected that growth will be slow and inconsistent.
Comic store sales are largely dominated by certain publishers, reports Statista. In 2019, Marvel Comics made up 40.3% of all comic store sales, with DC Entertainment accounting for 29.3% of sales. Image Comics held 8.04% of the sales, while IDW Publishing, Dark Horse Comics, VBOOM! Studios, and Dynamite Entertainment all had less than 5% of sales.
The comic book store industry is currently undergoing significant changes because of new trends. According to Business Insider, new types of comics are growing in popularity. Children’s comics and graphic novels were more popular than superhero comics in 2019, but those materials are most widely sold through traditional book stores, rather than comic stores. In 2018, book store graphic novel sales reached $500 million, but graphic novel sales through comic book stores were only at $200 million. Both graphic novels and children’s comics potentially pose an opportunity for comic book stores to widen their offerings and attract new audiences.
Increased use of digital comics services is also changing how readers both buy and consume the material. Amazon’s digital comics service, Comixology, is one example of this. Readers are turning to binge-reading both to save money and to instantly access the wide variety of materials that are available. It’s possible that digital comics could help to spur interest in print comics, as readers have already begun to seek out print comics after being exposed to the line through a digital medium.
Publisher’s Weekly highlights the influence that movies and TV shows are having on the industry, too. The wildly popular Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC TV shows have proven the popularity of superheroes and brought more fans to the genre. Fans may seek out comics to access the backstory to their favorite characters, so it’s possible that these media could help to drive sales.
Publisher’s Weekly also highlights the importance of having comics that are accessible to all ages. Classic graphic novels continue to be popular, and manga continues to sell well.
Comic book stores typically market to comic enthusiasts and readers, though that specific market can vary. Some stores may specialize in vintage and rare comics, attracting an audience that values prized items but that may not read the comics they buy. A more traditional comic store could have a mix of collectible pieces as well as modern comics, marketing toward collectors who are purchasing comics mainly to read them.
Skills, experience, and education useful in running a comic book store
Starting a comic book store doesn’t require a business degree, but certain skills and advantages can be beneficial in the comic industry.
A love of comics. When you own a comic book store, you really need to love comics. Knowledge of the industry, the most popular comics, and what drives readers to buy comics are essential to building a successful store.
Attention to detail. From ensuring that comics arrive in great condition to monitoring pricing and inventory, owning a store requires plenty of attention to detail.
Awareness of comic industry trends. The comic book industry is constantly changing, and a store owner who is aware of the newest trends can help the store to adopt to meet customers’ interests.
Great customer service skills. A store owner with great customer service skills can build meaningful connections with customers and ensure that each trip into a store is a positive experience. This is essential when running a smaller store and can encourage customers to become repeat buyers.
Creativity. The comic book industry is competitive, and a business owner needs to be creative in how they get customers into the store. Unique events and marketing techniques can help to drive sales, and a business owner who can get creative in their marketing can help the store to stand out.
The cost to start a comic book store will vary depending on the store’s size, its specialty, and even its location. It’s possible to start a smaller store for $25,000 or more, while larger stores can cost as much as $75,000 and up. Purchasing inventory for a store that specializes in rare and collectible comics will cost significantly more.
Common startup costs for a comic book store include:
- Shelves and display units
- Cash register, computer, and other office equipment
Steps to Starting a Comic Book Store
Step 1. Write your Business Plan
After coming up with the idea, the next step in starting your business should be to write a comic book store business plan. Not only will a bank require you to have a business plan, but multiple studies have shown that a business plan helps increase the odds of starting a successful business.
Step 2. Form a Business Entity
A business entity refers to how a business is legally organized to operate. There are four primary business entities to choose from which include the sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation and LLC. Each type of entity has its own pros and cons such as liability exposure, costs and administrative requirements.
Related: Comparison of Business Entities
Step 3. Select your Location
A store’s rental costs will vary depending on the store’s location, size, and amenities, like off-street parking. A store that’s located in a high-traffic retail area will carry a higher rental cost, but it can also bring in walk-in traffic and help to build community awareness of the business.
Related: Choosing a business location
Step 4. Apply for Business Licenses and Permits
There are no specific comic book store licenses, however there are some common local, state and federal registrations most businesses need include a sales tax permit, Employer Identification Number, Occupancy Permit among others.
Step 5. Find Financing
Coming up with a good business idea and having the skills to run it are one thing, but getting the funding to start a comic book store is another as a majority of the costs go towards inventory and remodeling. In order to get a loan, the borrower(s) will need to have good credit and be able invest 15-25% of their money towards the total start-up costs.
Step 6. Get your Marketing Plan in Place
Great marketing can help a comic book store to stand out in a competitive industry, and can encourage customers to come into the store. Marketing techniques can include social media marketing, online advertising, print advertising, and more. A business owner might also establish a customer loyalty and/or a referral rewards policy to help drive sales and build up the customer base. Holding special events can also help to bring both returning and new customers into the store. Marketing costs will vary depending on the activities that a store performs.
Step 7. Get Insurance
A comic book store needs several types of insurance for full coverage:
- General liability insurance helps to protect the business if a customer is ever injured while on the property, such as during a slip or fall in the store. This type of policy typically covers expenses like medical bills and legal fees.
- Commercial property insurance helps to protect a business against financial losses if its inventory or equipment are ever damaged in an event like a fire.
- Worker’s compensation insurance helps to protect the business if an employee is ever injured on the job. It helps to cover expenses like medical bills and legal fees.
The cost of insurance will vary with the store’s location, the value of the inventory and building, and the number of employees on staff. To get the most accurate idea of what to budget for insurance, request policy quotes from multiple providers. When evaluating the quotes, consider how factors like premiums, exclusions, coverage limits, and deductibles compare.
Step 8. Hiring Employees
Depending on a comic book store’s hours, a store owner may be able to handle most or all of the initial staffing. As the store grows in popularity and size, it may be necessary to hire employees. Data on average comic book employee salaries isn’t available, but Glassdoor reports that bookstore clerks earn an average of $27,817 per year.
If a store hires employees, its budget will need to include not only salaries, but also other expenses like worker’s comp, unemployment insurance, paid time off, and vacation time.
Related: Hiring your first employee
How much can you potentially make owning a comic book store?
Comic book store income depends on many factors, including the store’s specialty, size, location, and number of years in business. Whether or not the store allows online sales will also affect its profits. To maximize your store’s income, consider adding complementary products that will appeal to your audience, like figurines, games, and collectibles.
Things to consider before starting a comic book store
Before you open a store, take some time to do thorough market research. Visit other local comic book stores and see what they have for inventory, as well as what they’re missing. Try to connect with other comic book store owners who aren’t in your local market and ask them for advice on starting a store of your own.
Once your store is up and running, your customers can be a valuable source of information and insight. Don’t be afraid to talk to your customers about what they’re looking for, what they would like to see your store carry, and what products they have trouble finding locally. By listening to your customers, you can continue to improve your store so that it delivers the shopping experience that they want.