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December’s skip week: Who cares if you don’t get your comics?

by  in Comic News Comment

With all the brouhaha about no new comics on 30 December, not many people are wondering what this will do to retailers. I’m here to correct that!

First of all, I got some more information about the skip week. In Brian’s post, he writes that it has to do with UPS’s schedule, but I’m not sure that’s true (okay, as I’ll point out, it’s partially true, but not completely). According to my retailer, UPS is working Christmas Eve (which is a Thursday) but NOT New Year’s Eve. So I wonder, if it’s UPS pulling the strings, why comics wouldn’t be delayed the week AFTER the one that is actually being skipped. Someone in the comments section blamed Diamond, and from what I’ve heard, that’s probably more on the money. Diamond pays their employees in hourly wages, so they just want to save some money and not pay them anything for that week, mainly because in order to get the books into stores on Wednesday 30 December, they’d have to change things around a bit, and God forbid they do that. I’ll explain.

Diamond gets the comics from the publishers on Fridays. They pack boxes over the weekend and ship them on Monday so the books can arrive on Wednesday (or Thursday if you’re all international and shit, but let’s not complicate this more than it needs to be). Therefore, UPS would only have to deliver books to them on Friday (which is Christmas, so that’s not going to happen) and pick them up on Monday, which is the 28th and therefore should be a work day. That’s the way it is. Of course, the way the holidays fall this year will screw it all up. UPS can’t deliver the books on Friday, and according to my retailer, they won’t deliver the books to Diamond on Saturday (I don’t know if this is true; the UPS web site doesn’t really specify, using “business days,” which may or may not include Saturdays). So if they follow the usual timeline, they wouldn’t deliver books for 30 December until Monday the 28th, and Diamond probably wouldn’t be ready to ship until the 30th itself. UPS isn’t working on the 31st or (presumably) the 1st, which is presumably the reason for skipping the week. It’s not necessarily UPS’s fault, because Diamond and the Big Two (who probably don’t care) could easily work out a solution. (I should point out that Christopher Butcher lets us know that this is the problem, according to Diamond’s press release.)

Diamond has an exclusive contract with Marvel and DC. They could (all of this is could; i.e., if Diamond had any inclination to do so) ask them to ship the books earlier, maybe even with the books for the 23rd. UPS could deliver them all on the Friday before (the 18th) and then, the following weekend, Diamond could pack the books for the 30th just like normal. Everything would be fine, and we wouldn’t be having heart palpitations about missing our comics. But Diamond won’t do this. Why? Because they’re trying to save money. They don’t want to pay their employees that weekend, and they don’t want to go out of their way to change their procedures. My retailer wondered if DC and Marvel could split the order on the week of the 23rd and ship them to the retailers on the 24th, meaning the comics would arrive in stores on the 28th. Diamond won’t do this, because they don’t want retailers putting out books before Wednesday. According to my retailer (who, admittedly, is a bit shaky on the legal side of his business), his contract with Diamond states he can’t put books out prior to Wednesday, and if the books get there on Monday, some unscrupulous retailers will put them out on Monday. I suppose that’s possible, but I know that Atomic Comics, the other retailer near my house, gets their books on Tuesday, and they don’t put them out until Wednesday. Diamond could bend their own rules in this instance, but they won’t.

Why does any of this matter? Well, readers can go jump in a lake. If you can’t go a week without your comics fix, you need some help. But let’s consider the retailers. Mike Sterling, retailer extraordinaire, wrote this about the skip week:

Bit of a shocker, there, and one I’m not entirely thrilled about. However, December does tend to be a strong month for sales, not to mention we’ll get that post-Christmas traffic from folks with gift money and gift certificates (the latter of which usually used to subsidize purchases of items far greater than the certificate’s value) … we should be able to ride out a week without new product. I’d rather have new product … even a minuscule amount of books, like we’ve received Christmases past, would be preferable to nothing at all. With any luck, this may not entirely be the disaster it sounds. I hope.

Now, if a world-famous retailer like Mr. Sterling is having a bit of anxiety about this, what hope do mortal retailers have???? The point is, most retailers make most of their money from new comics. The week between Christmas and New Year’s is, I would imagine, a busy one in the retail world, because kids are out of school and a lot of people take off from work. My retailer is planning on having a big sale, which he’s confident will recoup whatever money he’s going to lose from the loss of new comics sales. But in today’s economy, with bills to pay (evil utilities don’t care about religious holidays, man!), the loss of a huge chunk of income for retailers is nothing to sneeze at. Some people mentioned that it’s a fifth week, so it “doesn’t matter” if there’s a skip week, but DC and Marvel long ago stopped caring about the existence of fifth weeks. Comics no longer come out on a regular schedule (Fantastic Four always on the first week in a month, for instance), so fifth weeks are meaningless. Maybe the week after the 30th, the week will be gigantic and retailers can recoup losses, but that doesn’t help them the previous week, will it? It would be nice if DC and Marvel load up on the 23rd to maybe help retailers make more money to get them through the next week, but I don’t know if that’s their plan. Why should they care about retailers?

Now, I doubt if retailers are going to go out of business because of this. Many of them will probably have big sales, and that’s cool. Getting people into the stores is the issue, but that’s part of advertising, and retailers know they might have to get the word out occasionally without relying on their regulars. I just wanted to point out that this has nothing to do with you, the readers. Some people actually rely on comics, not for entertainment, but for their livelihood. Diamond, which has a relationship with the retailers, has decided not to make any effort to alleviate this situation. They could, but they won’t. My retailer hopes that enough of his ilk let them know that this isn’t a great business decision so that they rethink their decision. I can live without my comics that week. I just wanted to let you know that it’s not about us.