ComicImpact Store Spotlight: Ok Comics

Published on April 28th, 2010

We started a new feature here at Comic Impact a few months back ,The ComicImpact Store Spotlight.

Every month we will turn our magnifying glass on a local store (local can mean local for you the comic fan as well!). We then contact the owner and ask a few questions and even throw some pictures up on the site!! Sweet! Right? Well wait it gets better. We also decided that every POW(PICK OF THE WEEK) for that month that we record that we will mention the store of that month.. for the entire month! Now here is the important part where you, the reader can get involved. We want to know about your store! We want to know what stores in you area there are that you feel deserve to be spotlighted! Send us some suggestions as well as some reasons why you feel your store deserves it! We will pick from those at the end of the month to get the new store each month!!!

This month we’re taking a look at Ok Comics in the UK.

1. Tell us a little bit about your store?
OK Comics is a book shop in England specialising in comics and graphic novels. We’ve created a posh, upscale environment for hardcore comic fans and casual readers just getting started.It’s easy to sell comics to comic fans, so we try really had to make comics accessible to new comic readers.

2. How long has your store been open?

We’ve been trading for seven years We started slowly on the internet providing a mail order service, and then opening a small store for the first year until we moved to our suave shop located in one of the oldest Victorian shopping arcades in the country.
We’ve won a couple of retail awards in the UK, and were nominated for an Eisner award last year.

3. Do you have any special event? ie, Magic the Gathering, Pokemon etc.

We host regular “Doodle-Booze” events in a local bar. We take over half of the pub and our customers are invited along to drink and draw. It’s a great social event.

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We’re also big supporters of Free Comic Book Day, and in recent years we’ve hosted Oxfam at our store, which has got more people involved in both Oxfam’s charity work and free comics.

4. Do you have any special store deals? ie, buy one get one free on a specific day, or a certain % off if you purchase a certain amount ?
OK Comics regularly have great deals on graphic novels (three for 20 quid, hardbacks at paperback prices etc), and we stock thousands of classic back issues from 1970’s through to modern all priced at 50p (about 75 cents) not just quarter bin stuff, high end stuff.

As far as I’m aware OK Comics is the only comic book shop in the world to provide a FREE graphic novel lending library… this gets people reading new stuff they may have been hesitant to purchase and leads to people broadening their tastes beyond the usual superhero stuff.

5. As a retail store owner what is the most difficult thing that you wish you could change in this industry?
In order to get the best prices, and widest range of stock, we deal with lots of book distributors outside of the usual comic distribution channels. I think the whole industry would benefit if comic suppliers were as organised and professional as book suppliers.

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Times are tough for for retailers and I feel it’s up to everybody (publishers, distributors, retailers) to up their game and provide a faster, more reliable service for our customers.

6. How long have you been involved with comics?

I’ve personally been a comic reader all my life, and been a comic retailer since I left college fifteen years ago. I’ve worked for quite a few comic shops and online dealers before setting up OK Comics.

All the staff here are dedicated comic enthusiasts. We all read a large and varied range of stuff every week.

7. How do you feel about CGC and graded books? As a fan are you for or against it?
As a retailer do they sell in your store?
I’m not a big fan of CGC and graded books. I believe that comics are for reading and enjoying. They should be read in the bath, on the bus, on the beach, carried around in your pocket, swapped with friends… I think slabbing books encourages people to see comics as investment.

Don’t get me wrong, I can totally see why high end golden and silver age books are slabbed for mail order sale, but sealing new releases in plastic seems like a bad idea.

We only stock them at OK Comics when customers request them.
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8. Where do you see the comic book retail business in five years?
In the UK more and more mainstream prose book shops are stocking a larger range of graphic novels. As an increased number of casual readers get interested in comics and graphic novels I can see the book shops capitalising on this.
Massive online stores providing graphic novels at very tempting discounts are probably the biggest threat to high street comic book stores. It’s up to each retailer to ‘man up’ and provide a better instore service that can’t be matched by mail order websites.

9. How does your store deal with collectibles such as statues and figures? Is it more of a special request item or is the average fan still interested in them?
We only stock figures, statues and busts etc at the request of customers. In my experience members of the non comic reading general public are often put off by toys, and it perpetuates the idea that comics are a childish endeavour.

10. What is the average age of your customers?

I guess the average age of our customers is somewhere between 20 and 40, but we sell lots of comics to parents of very young kids who’re learning to read. And we have much older customers who’ve been collecting since the 60’s and 70’s.
We have a very high percentage of female customers. It’d be near impossible to describe a ‘typical’ customer.

11. As a retailer do you still have the luxury of being a fanboy and do you still get giddy when you read your favourite books?

I try to keep off internet news websites, so when Previews Catalogue comes out I still get excited about new stuff.

12. What is the number one question you get from new customers?

“What’s good?”, “What do you read?”, “Have you seen Kick Ass?”, they’re all pretty popular questions.
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13. If someone walks into your store and say’s, “Hey, I want to get into comics.” What would you recommend to them?
More and more people seem to be trying comics for the first time. It’s a retailers duty to make sure they leave the shop with something suitable for them, otherwise they may never come back. We try to spend a few minutes chatting to people and find out what sort of books they read, or movies they watch, and then we can best recommend a graphic novel tailored for them.
We’ve also got an instore “Top 10 Recommendations” that makes it easy for people to buy something unfamiliar with confidence.

14. What are some of your favourite current books? Does it influence sales in your store?

Personally, I like Scalped, Walking Dead, Sword, Echo, anything by Brubaker and Phillips… I try to read every new issue 1 that comes out and I’ll definitely try any new post apocalypse series.

Even though I’m a long serving Marvel Zombie I’ve found myself dropping a lot of Marvel stuff recently and reading more graphic novels. I’m currently looking forward to Blacksad, the new Raphael Grampa series, Scott Pilgrim 6, Wilson by Dan Clowes, the third part of Chimpanzee Complex, Werewolves of Montpellier by Jason, amongst others…
It’s really easy to sell stuff if you’re genuinely enthusiastic about it.

15. What is the best storyline in comics history and what is the one book you never get tired of reading?

I’ve re-read Akira, From Hell and Preacher quite a few times. I’ve read Planetary about 20 times and that never seems to get boring, it always seems to give up more secrets on each rereading.

I’d hate the think that comics have already peaked. The medium still has so much potential, hopefully the best storyline in comics is yet to come.
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So make sure to check out Ok Comics  if you are in the area or make sure to check them out on the web at OkComics.co.uk

Simon Daoudi
Simon@comicimpact.com