Diamond Comic Distributors has announced it will not be shipping new comic books to retailers due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“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,” said Steve Geppi, chairman and CEO of Geppi Family Enterprises, in a statement posted to the company’s website Monday. For now, the company will continue to ship reorders.
The announcement follows news last week that Free Comic Book Day is indefinitely postponed.
Diamond is the exclusive distributor of comics from the industry’s core publishers, including Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Image Comics, Boom! Studios, Dark Horse Comics and more — meaning it is the sole company that ships single-issue comics and bound volumes between the printer and retail shops.
Local comic book shops are among the businesses that have had to adjust as city and state officials across the U.S. have issued orders instructing people to stay at home to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
These comic book retailers are in a unique situation because they operate in the direct market, where each store has to decide how many issues of each comic it believes it can sell and pay upfront for this inventory, and those orders are generally non-refundable. The cutoff for the orders is usually months in advance of the on-sale date.
When he first got word that Diamond was delaying upcoming shipments, Comics Factory owner George Huang said he felt “disbelief at first, and then, honestly, relief.”
“As one of many comic book retailers that has been mandated to close during this crisis, we struggled with the idea of having to receive, house and pay for our new shipments over the next weeks while our store remains closed,” said Huang, who has closed his Pasadena shop to all business to comply with official orders.
A number of comic book publishers including Image Comics and Boom! Studios have been vocal about ways to safely support retailers and have begun to announce new measures — such as making more products returnable.
“The comic industry, like every facet of our lives, is facing a massive disruption,” said Filip Sablik, Boom! Studios’ president of publishing and marketing in a statement to The Times. “Every business and industry is working hard to balance the needs of its employees, its partners, and its customers while following guidelines from local, state, and federal government officials in this unprecedented time.
“We’ve signaled our deep and ongoing support of the small business owners behind comic book shops, who are the lifeblood of this industry, with the announcement of our Retailer Support Services Program,” Sablik added. “While Diamond’s announcement regarding their warehouse closures will clearly impact the timing of some of our initiatives, we intend to follow through with our pledges when distribution resumes.”
In addition to making all of its new products released through June 24 returnable, Boom! Studios is also encouraging people to continue supporting their local comic shops that have adopted new services in order to safely serve their customers.
Before Diamond’s latest announcement, publishers and creators had been encouraging readers to set up a pull list — an ongoing subscription of the comics they are reading — at their local comic shops if they have not already done so.
Comic book retailers have had to alter course in the wake of the coronavirus. Some shops have been able to adopt alternate ways for customers to obtain their comics such as shipping orders made online, over email or the phone, as well as offering curbside pickup during business hours.
That said, Huang believes some of these moves “makes little sense in the case of comic books, which do not meet the criteria of ‘essential supplies’” and that “these retailers are countermanding the spirit of the ‘safer at home’ order” made to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
“I understand the financial strain this is putting on small ‘non-essential’ retail businesses like mine. Our margins are so small to begin with and this is really going to take its toll on all of us moving forward,” said Huang. “I believe that Diamond Distributors’ decision to suspend all new shipments may help close this loophole and serve as a reminder as to where our priorities should truly lie, and I, for one, commend them.”
Huang says that the safest way to support comic book shops is to purchase gift cards.
“Gift cards are a great way to support local comic shops at this time because it gives us some positive cash flow with which to pay rent, and to take care of employees while we are closed,” he said.