On Monday March 23, 2020 Diamond Comics Distributors Inc. announced they would be suspending the receiving of products (including IDW Publishing’s Sonic the Hedgehog comics) beginning in April.
Diamond Comics Distributors is the go-to comics distribution service for many retailers. This comes as many companies, including IDW Publishing, have been having their employees work from home as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic, and comic book retailers have found themselves receiving less in person traffic at their stores and have had to resort to delivering comics to people via curbside pickup or at home delivery.
Diamond Comics Distributors founder Steve Geppi made the official statement on the matter earlier this afternoon.
“Our publishing partners are also faced with numerous issues in their supply chain, working with creators, printers, and increasing uncertainty when it comes to the production and delivery of products for us to distribute. Our freight networks are feeling the strain and are already experiencing delays, while our distribution centers in New York, California, and Pennsylvania were all closed late last week. Our own home office in Maryland instituted a work from home policy, and experts say that we can expect further closures. Therefore, my only logical conclusion is to cease the distribution of new weekly product until there is greater clarity on the progress made toward stemming the spread of this disease.”-Steve Geppi
To better explain, here is a broad summary of how the chain supply works in the comic book industry (or at least what could be understood/inferred from the research I did for this article):
• The comic book is created by the publishing company
• The publishing company sends the completed comic out to the distributor
• The retailer requests an amount of the comic book from that distributor
• The retailer and distributor work out a deal
• The distributor sends the amount of the comics to the retailer
• The retailer sells the comic to the consumer
So, what the closures and work-from-home policies have meant is that there are too many hiccups in the system to really be able to distribute comics to retailers effectively and safely.
“Product distributed by Diamond and slated for an on-sale date of April 1st or later will not be shipped to retailers until further notice. For the time being, however, we have been able to develop procedures with our teams at the distribution center in Olive Branch, MS to safely continue fulfilment of direct ship reorders for the retailers who are able to receive new product and need it to service their customers. It’s unlikely that orders will be filled on the same day they are placed, and these plans are subject to change if at any point we no longer feel that we can safeguard our teams while fulfilling orders. Product distributed by Diamond UK and slated for an on-sale date of March 25th or later will not be shipped to retailers until further notice. Further updates with regard to reorders and other Diamond UK-specific information will be communicated directly to their customers as information becomes available.”-Geppi
This has been explained later in the statement as a “change in distribution strategy”, which make sense since certain retailers will be able to still order their stock, but it will not be filled in the same way and as promptly as it would have been before this decision was made.
Geppi also offered advice to retailers who worry about how this will financially impact their businesses, saying that the stock they currently have might be the key to keeping themselves afloat, as many people will still seek to get away from the trials around them by reading comics. “If your doors remain open, it’s likely you will have customers who will continue to seek diversion from events of the world. Special sales, promotions, and even eBay can help you bring in cash during this trying time. Product for which you’ve already paid may well hold some of your answers.” -Geppi
Geppi said in the statement he would be looking at ways to help retailers in terms of debts that have been accrued due to the distribution change, discount tier changes, etc. This would likely be discussed later, as no mention of how they would help was mentioned in the statement.
IDW also made a statement regarding the closure:
“To Our Partners Throughout the Comics Industry,
Last week, we sent out a statement to the comics community in which we pledged our support for the Direct Market during the current health and economic crisis. We’ve been keeping a very close eye on the public discussions taking place in forums and on social media, and the sentiment from retailers is abundantly clear:
It’s time to take action.
In light of Diamond’s statement today, our immediate steps to offer relief for our retail partners are:
• For the next three months, IDW will be offering 60-day no-fee returnable terms for all items on Final Order Cutoff (FOC) corresponding to the weekly on-sale dates from March 18th to June 24th.
• IDW is announcing the suspension of May releases corresponding to OSD dates from May 6th to May 27th.
• IDW will reduce its overall publishing line for products originally scheduled through July, with a focus on releasing our biggest projects in special editions to help drive traffic to stores through the summer.
With these measures, our hope is that we can lessen the immediate financial risk that retailers face for IDW products, and give retailers a much-needed break for their monthly budgets.
These are first steps. As the situation continues to unfold, we’re certain to initiate additional programs to help our retail partners. It’ll take insight from and coordination with shop owners, Diamond, and our publishing peers to shape a comprehensive strategy for the industry to move forward.
As a special note to our Creative Partners:
We know that you’re likewise feeling the pain of the current circumstances. Trimming our line through the summer in support of the Direct Market retailers will undoubtedly impact creative workflow for the short term. We fully appreciate the difficulty that this presents to freelancers. It’s our expectation that — in the long term — the Direct Market will bounce back as a result of these steps, and we can all continue the good work of making quality comics on the other side. Our Editorial team has been reaching out to creators and licensors with these latest updates, and we’re here to help in any way we can: answering your questions, listening to your ideas, etc.
The IDW team is committed to working with retailers and creators to get through the coming weeks and months. As I mentioned in our previous statement, we’re here to listen and help. We invite you to contact us directly (firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org) and we’ll field your questions as best as we can.
Wishing you health and security,
It remains unclear whether comics will still be available digitally.
Overall, this is a blow to the comic book community, but it seems like Diamond Comic Distributors and IDW all feel the best way to get through this hardship is together.
This post was originally written by the author for TSSZ News.