This week, Ethan Peacock from Vancouver’s Elfsar Comics agreed to answer a few email questions about his business. Elfsar occupies 2,500 square feet in Vancouver, BC. and opened May 2003 with some help from the folks behind Happy Harbor in Edmonton. The store is a participant of Free Comic Book Day and 24 Hour Comic day as well as fundraisers for charities (it donated over $1,600 to the Vancouver Ronald McDonald House last year). Peacock was nice enough to list some of his current bestsellers. Looking over the lists, it’s tempting to say, as Elfsar goes, so goes the Direct Market. From Peacock’s description, the store seems to attract a huge number of traditional Marvel/DC-type fans/collectors. I’m also reminded I should ask more specific questions about Canadian comics sales.

Q. What is the general age/gender breakdown of your customers?

The average age is about 25-30 years of age. The Male/female ratio is 85% Male 15% Female.

Q. What do you sell more of by volume, graphic novels (including trades and manga) or monthly comic books?

Well, it’s kind of hard to say. Comics (floppies) still rank as #1 but that is mostly due to our saver file subscriptions for monthly books. However for floor traffic Trades are definitely #1. We track every sale at our store via our point of sale system so we know exactly what is selling, customer purchase history & loads of other useful data which helps us with our ordering.

Q. What do do you sell more of by dollar value?

Again, same as above.

Q. What are your bestselling books?

1. 52 weeks
2. Civil War
3. Mighty Avengers
4. Astonishing X-men
5. New Avengers
6. All Star Superman
7. Justice League of America
8. Justice Society of America
9. Walking Dead
10. The Boys

Q. What are your bestselling non-manga graphic novels?

1. Superman Death of Superman TP
2. Batman The Long Halloween TP
3. Astonishing X-men Vol 1 TP
4. Ultimate Spider-man Vol 1 TP
5. Batman Hush Vol 1 TP
6. Walking Dead Vol 1 TP
7. Batman Dark Knight Returns TP
8. Sandman Vol 4. TP
9. Superman Red Son TP
10. Watchmen TP

Q. What are your bestselling non-superhero graphic novels?

1. Walking Dead Vol 1 TP
2. Watchmen TP
3. Sandman Vol 4. TP
4. 300 HC
5. Y the Last Man Vol 1 TP
6. Bone One Vol Edition SC
7. Transformers G1 Vol 1 TP
8. Conan Vol 1 TP
9. Pride of Bagdad HC
10. Transmetropolitan Vol 1 TP

Q. What percent of your manga sales are driven by “TheYTV effect” and other media (anime, movies, toys, etc)?

Not much or at least I have not noticed anything significant.

Q. What do you see as the major trends in graphic novels and comics retailing over the next year? The next 5 years?

Our sales greatly depend on what the Top companies decide to put into print. I believe that Graphic Novels (Trades) are the future and we have been adjusting out orders accordingly. I think publishers are starting to have more faith in this format. But it is kind of anti-collecting and certain companies (i.e. Marvel) make it obvious that they do not like that which is why they seem to let so many of their trades go out of print. Other companies (i.e. Dynamite Entertainment) are starting to publish variant covers for Trades which again I feel is the wrong direction. I believe that Trades belong on a bookshelf and are aimed at people who want to read stories. Plain and simple.

Over the next year I foresee more collections of older material from the large publishers. I foresee more independent creators skipping the single issue format and going straight to trades, which will cost them more at first but in the long run they will sell out as opposed to having tons of #3’s and #4’s that they can’t sell without reprinting #1’s and #2’s.

In the next 5 years I think the larger publishers will be pushing to put ads in Trades weather at the end or throughout the book (I have already seen this in a Top Cow Hardcover). I think that there will be more comics on the web and I think single issues will crash in sales and many comic book stores will close. This will be also due to comics being pushed to things like blackberries for a subscription, etc.

Hey, when you have Jonny Q [sic] at Marvel saying “The paper form of Comics will be extinct in 30 years,” it doesn’t give me a few positive outlook on my business of selling paper comics.

Q. What comics do you find yourself recommending the most?

Hard to say, for those looking for great stories, we recommend good stating points or one-shot books from some of our favorite writers. For those looking for good art, we point out different art styles and see what they bite on. Each employee has their personal faves. I like Mignola’s work myself.

Q. What are your favourite comics?

I like any Comics/Trades that sell well and stay in print.

Q. Why are you a comics retailer?

At first it was because I was a comics fan. I was an aspiring artist and comics were very attractive to me. I was ordering so many comics that it was time to open a store. Now, that I have been exposed to the other side my fandomship has died down a fair amount. Now it’s just a business and my priorities have changed.

Q. What bothers you the most about the current comics industry?

The “Comic Book Day Wednesday” situation. As much as I love the fact that we have customers that can’t wait to buy our product. A lot of it is already spoken for. All other industries get at least a day to sort through inventory, check damages, make displays, enter items that were not in their database & get knowledge on the product. We have customers eagerly hounding us for stuff as our product arrives. The customer will also ask us “So how’s this book?” when we have not even had time to get it out (quite literally) of the box, let alone read it. This causes a lot of unnecessary stress and I personally believe is the #1 reason that comic book shops are a dying breed.

Ideally we would get our stuff a day early or during the previous night so that we could set everything up during closing hours. Ideally all comic shops would agree to not sell the books before the next day. But we are breed that feeds off ourselves and that will never happen. All it takes is one to break the rule and other have no choice but to follow suit or go out of business. If I was the only Comic Book shop in Vancouver, I would totally make Thursday “Comic Book Day”, but I am not. So I have no choice but to suffer.

Also we are not ever ordering for tomorrow like most businesses … you run out of something … you order more. Instead we have to order 2 months in advance or we have to order for 6 months down the line. It is impossible to predict your next weeks invoice so cash flow is always a problem.

Q. How important is the web to your business?

Very, it acts like a giant business card and with the increase in webcomics it will become more and more important as time goes on. It gives
store the opportunity to showcase their Events/Sales/Product/Signings/etc…

(604) 688-5922
Open 7 Days a Week
1007 Hamilton St.
Vancouver , BC
Canada V6B 5T4