• The Future of Comic Book Stores is… Borders?

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“ANN ARBOR, Mich., Feb. 14, 2008—After more than 18 months of development and testing, Borders will unveil the first of its highly anticipated new concept stores when grand opening festivities kick off Feb. 22 at its new store on Lohr Rd. in Ann Arbor, Mich., the company’s hometown. The 28,900-square-foot concept store—the first of 14 the company expects to open nationwide this year—represents a significant enhancement over existing Borders stores inside and out and fulfills the company’s mission to be a headquarters for knowledge and entertainment.”

“…we’ve put a strong focus on popular categories—including Travel, Cooking, Wellness, Graphic Novels and Children’s—by incorporating digital options and the online world, making these sections of the store interactive destinations where customers can not only shop our vast selection of books, but also take advantage of computer kiosks featuring recommendations from our expert buyers, related video content including interviews with experts and authors, and much more.”

“Borders, a long-time leader in the Graphic Novels market, has created a Graphic Novels Destination offering fans of this unique category an extensive inventory of Manga, Superhero and other Graphic Novels, as well as Anime DVDs, comic books and licensed collectible items.

Titles & Merchandise

  • The Graphic Novels Destination in the concept store is instantly recognizable by images of licensed artwork such as that of Naruto™, Wonder Woman™ and Sandman™ on lighted drums suspended from the ceiling. Borders created these colorful drums to appeal to the visual nature of fans of Graphic Novels.
  • The Destination contains thousands of titles as well as a large selection of comic books, how-to-draw books, magazines and DVDs. The breath and depth of the selection is larger than that offered by a typical Borders superstore.
  • In addition to an extensive inventory of titles, the Destination also features a number of non-book items such as collectible figurines and plush toys to round out the offerings provided exclusively for Graphic Novels enthusiasts. Customers can also purchase software to create their own comic books.

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Okay, so what does this mean to the future of comic books?

Border’s already carries a great selection of graphic novels, and it has proven to be one of their best-selling and fastest growing areas. In these new concept stores, Graphic Novels is singled out as one of 5 “featured destinations” in the store.

This is a HUGE step forward in recognizing Graphic Novels as a widely accepted form of pop art. I really believe that these are the steps that will bring in new readers to the comic book industry – a friendly, neutral environment where the average consumer can investigate the world of graphic novels without feeling like they are showing up at the party uninvited (as, unfortunately, many still feel when going into a comic book store).

In addition to these feature destinations, there will be a significant area called the “community room” where they will host signings and discussions. These community room events can also be broadcast to be viewed live via webcast. Comic book creators and publishers need to jump all over this and really embrace the opportunity we’ve been given here to embrace the brand that Border’s is building around Graphic Novels.

It’s also great that these stores seem to embrace Superhero, Manga, & Art comics equally… which is greatly lacking in traditional comic book stores. I believe that one day, Superhero books will no longer be the lead sellers in comics.

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Is this the end of traditional comic book stores?

No. Border’s still has a very limited selection of monthly titles. And I don’t see that ever changing. There is more of a profit margin on the graphic novels and less inventory to keep up with on a weekly basis.

What Border’s does offer is a window into the comic book industry. Consumers who wouldn’t normally buy a comic can find a graphic novel that interests them at a Border’s store. If they like what they read, hopefully the rest of the comic book industry will be open enough to learn to provide that window into our world.

I’m sure that Border’s is not interested in sending its customers to traditional comic stores, but hopefully it will at least be open to the online comics community through their interactive stations.

And maybe, the comics community can make a specific underground effort to expand the universe by embracing the community that these Border’s stores can provide.

At the same time, I hope this provides a challenge for traditional stores to be competitive with these Border’s stores – to provide the same kind of neutral environment where customers can browse and read and hang out without feeling threatened.

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3 comments
  1. I hope Atlanta gets one of those stores. Hopefully, since we have a major metro area and we’re East Coast it will become a reality.

    All of a sudden I want to cuddle with my Incredible Hulk stuffed animal.

  2. Johnny – I hope we get one too. They announced like 14 of them over the next year or so and none were in Atlanta… but you never know…

    Shannon – I imagine these “re-imagined” stores were directly in response to Border’s drop in sales. I hope they find success.

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