Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Joys of Your Own Business

Well, this has been a crazy week.

UPS lost (but later found) 11 of our 35 + boxes that were supposed to be coming to our central sorting area. As a result, we weren't able to get the books on the shelves at our DC store until Wednesdy AM, and in Fredericksburg until Wednesday PM. Not a killer, but when you consider how much driving I had to do to get up to DC and back on Wednesday (and part of the way on Tuesday when there was still the CHANCE the books would arrive on that day) it was a real pain. For you see, on a normal Tuesday afternoon, the commute to DC is no big deal. The trick is to get there, get the books, and be on the road by no later than 2:30 or so. If I do that I miss the horrendous rush hour traffic that comes out of the Nation's Capital and I am back to F'burg by no later than 4:00pm or so to begin the sorting, logging in, and putting up of the week's new books.

Given that it is the holiday season, the traffic patterns right now are a bit screwy, so you could hit a traffic jam at any time and at any place on I-95. Which I did yesterday. Further complicating things was the fact that there was a 3 tractor-trailer pile up on I-95 south which closed the interstate for several hours. Luckily I didn't get caught in that mess too much, but it disrupted the flow engouh to make my trip to and from DC a 4 hour slog as opposed to a 2 hour quick round trip. Oh well....

That being said, things here in F'burg really are going well. New people continue to come in the door every day and we are up to 6 or so subscribers with 3-4 regulars that come in each week that have yet to become subscribers (but I think they will...). Add to that the foot traffic that is starting to find the place, and I am quite pleased with where we are right now. And I think things are only going to get better. Our sign will be up on the shopping center facade within 2 weeks, which will help to drive additional foot traffic to the store ("Big Monkey? What the hell is that?"). In addition, our Movie House ad will begin running on December 30.

A good time to be a Big Monkey.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Big Monkeys Forever

Lot's of stuff to report this week, so let's get to it!

Our website is FINALLY 99% completed and ready for the world to see. I'd say 100%, but there are always things that need to be tweaked on these things. That being said, if you haven't visited, you REALLY need to. Our web designer has really outdone herself. The site is clean, professional, and interactive in a way that most store websites simply are not. Not only does it have the news feeds and links to the Absorbascon (written by chain co-owner Scipio Garling) and Seven Hells! (written by DC store manager Devon Sanders), but it also has several areas where visitors can get involved in free-ranging discussions about all things comic-related. One of the neatest aspects of the site is the "Femme Fatale" section written by, about, and for female fans of the medium. The current discussion center's on Gail Simone's famous "Women in Refrigerators" treatise, and it is provoking some interesting posts.

Our advertising is starting to really have some impact. I tell you, people always say that it pays to advertise, and I could not be a bigger believer in that statement. We are really starting to get a bunch of people in here who would NEVER have known about us if it weren't for our newspaper ad. Once they make the trip to get here, most folks are excited about the store being here and like what it has to offer.

Speaking of advertising, we are going to begin running 7.5 second pre-movie advertisement at the local movie theatre starting December 30. We got the first draft of the ad yesterday, and it is VERY cool. Once we get it finalized, I think I'll slap it up here as a link so you can see it for yourself. Movie advertising technology has REALLY come a long way. When I first went to ask about doing the ad, I figured we'd have a single slide that just popped up there and then faded away. Au contraire! This is a full multi-media experience with text warping in, our logo spinning around, and an announcer touting the importance to the world of Big Monkey Comics. Yup, it's hella cool.

We haven't picked up any new subscribers this week, but I have given out a lot of the subscription forms. And I figure that we will get at least a few of them back over the next week or two. That being said, I have had a bunch of good conversations with customers as they have come in the door, and I am getting a much better feel for the types of products that might sell here. Still ordering a bit blind in terms of the numbers, but that will come.

The only disgruntled customers I've had so far were those (2) that were upset that we didn't have back issues in the store. Even after I explained that we have 5,000 books online and they are easily viewable, these two separate customers were unmoved. Oh well, you can't please everybody, and economically and visually, it makes a ton of sense to keep the books online. The customer base is bigger, and they don't clutter up the place.

Kids who come in to the shop have been more likely to buy the gaming stuff than the comic books. Their parents on the other hand, are more likely to buy the comic books. Kind of what I expected, but my goal here is to get the younger kids to also begin buying the books. That will be a potentially harder row to hoe, but one that I'm gunning for (to radically mix my metaphors).

What has also been nice -- on a personal satisfaction front -- is the fact that most people when they come in seem just happy to see all of the stuff up on the walls, etc. Most of my customers have been casual readers or "I haven't read a comic book since..." types. Just seeing their faces light up when they see the place really is nice. The goal of the store has always been to provide comics and other products to the hard core types (obviously), but I REALLY want to be able to bring the joy and fun of the medium to those who are more on the fringes. Kids, people who have seen any of the number of recent movies, people who read comic books long ago but got out of the habit. These are the types of customers I really want because to them comic books continue to be about fun, escape, nostalgia...all of the things that comic books and comic book reading SHOULD be about.

Okay, my short soapbox moment is over.

Talk to you later!