The Fall of the Distributors
There was a time when there were a dozen or more comic book distributors. Most stores dealt with whatever comic distributor had a warehouse nearby. For my store, that distributor was Capital City. Their local warehouse was only a twenty minute ride away, so I could easily pick up the new comics and not have to pay a shipping charge. Plus, it was easy to pick up more copies of comics that I under ordered or comic supplies. I did business with them for years and had a good working relationship with them. But that all changed.
In 1994, Marvel Comics bought Heroes World Distribution to be the sole distributor of their comics. While the move made financial sense in that they make more money on each comic sold, not having to sell the comics to distributors at a lower rate, it almost wiped out the entire comic industry. I can still remember hearing the news and realizing that nothing would ever be the same again. Gone was choice, competition and any power that comic store had. When the dust settled, we ended up with no choice in distributor, having to pay shipping costs and lower discounts. This forced alot of comic stores out of business (that and the market catering to the speculators who left in droves when the sure bets dried up).
While the Heroes World decision was bad for the industry, it was DC Comics decision to go exclusive with Diamond Comics that did as much if not more damage to the industry. That signaled the end of the other distributors. I still remember being at a dealer show held by Capital City Distributors when the news fell. What started as a fun show with some good seminars, great guests and fun events, ended up feeling like a funeral. As the word spread through the show that DC Comics went exclusive, you could see the look of dread on the faces of the Capital City employees. It was like they were at a funeral. It was one of the most depressing things that I ever experienced.
It wasn't long after that that Image, Dark Horse and other big companies followed DC and soon there was only two distributors. Marvel went back to Diamond soon after that, but the damage was done. The comic distribution became a monopoly and everyone knows that monopolies are never good. While I never had any problems with Diamond as they always had the comics arrive on time and in great shape, I saw my discount drop. My discount on new comics went down by 15% and now I had to pay shipping costs. While this wasn't the reason I eventually closed and switched to internet only sales, it did make the decision easier.
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