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Mar. 23rd, 2015

backroom

Competition

I'm about to write something that's probably more editorial than usual, and not intended to be a short sound byte, so, be warned. But, if you're interested in the business of business, and how it is impacting us all, it's an important read.

We just received communication from one of our suppliers today. I'm not saying which one. We weren't a target by ourselves. It's not the first of its type we've ever received. In fact, it's getting fairly common. But, getting any such things is troubling, and it seems it's how big business thinks business is done.

Normally, we "only" hear about exclusives or limited supplies or some reason the shipments going out were mishandled or delays.

The latest, though, is about a supplier telling us we're not allowed to sell their products in certain places without their prior approval. Anything. Probably including items we bought and paid for a decade or so ago. Retroactive. It isn't clear, and they don't want to clarify, so, basically, we shouldn't do it. It's a new policy, and we just happen to be one of many hearing about it. Or, so it seems, and I'm not trying to assume a motive that I just don't think is there. For the moment, we don't even sell there on that newly-restricted venue, but to increase sales, we were mulling it over. After all, business is about making money, and we're capitalists here. Just sayin'.

Still, the first thing this does is it limits, in certain venues, YOUR ABILITY AS A CUSTOMER to get a competitive price, maybe even a fair one. Why? If many aren't allowed to sell their wares in certain places, they can't compete against others who do, and that artificially keeps prices higher than they should be, since you can't get their lower prices (when they have them) on those items. If the manufacturer is choosing which sellers can and can't sell on those venues, too, it becomes fairly clear the manufacturer is getting to select whose pricing policies it wants to promote, and is controlling price. Since we pride ourselves on the value (including low prices) we offer, being told items we purchase outright from a supplier can't be sold as we choose not only interferes with how we can do business, but makes business more difficult. Instead of just worrying about selling things, (which, I promise you, is the full time job it seems to be!) we have to worry also about where and how and to whom we sell, and have to take time, energy and effort to verify we're not trampling on someone's "policy"...which, if we're being honest with the situation, is someone's attempt at ginning up higher prices and forgetting to respect the supply chain and retail customers without whom they are nothing. And, those of you who have dealt with us probably are well aware we NEVER forget to be grateful to our customers for their custom. We're nothing without our customers.

In trying to educate ourselves about this further, we found the following at http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Restraint+of+Trade discussing whether such policies are even legal:

"Restraint of Trade

Contracts or combinations that tend, or are designed, to eliminate or stifle competition, create a Monopoly, artificially maintain prices, or otherwise hamper or obstruct the course of trade as it would be carried on if it were left to the control of natural economic forces.

As used in the Sherman Anti-Trust Act (15 U.S.C.A. § 1 et seq.), unreasonable restraints of trade are illegal per se and interfere with free competition in business and commercial transactions. Such restraint tends to restrict production, affect prices, or otherwise control the market to the detriment of purchasers or consumers of goods and services. A restraint of trade that is ordinarily reasonable can be rendered unreasonable if it is accompanied by a Specific Intent to achieve the equivalent of a forbidden restraint.
"

Now, am I saying what is happening here, and in other situations we've had imposed upon us, "illegal"? I'm not a lawyer, and I don't know.

But, what I will say...as the reason for bringing this to an open forum to inform and enlighten those who would come here and read what we write...ANYTHING that restrains retailers from legal competition is likely to limit your supply and increase your price. And, with breathtaking frequency, that seems to be the goal of many manufacturers lately. Beyond that, when a supplier or manufacturer takes the step of controlling WHICH venues are allowed and to WHICH retailers, it becomes hard not to ask how price fixing isn't at play. So, legal or not, it's against our interests and yours. We'll let the lawyers figure out how to parse the exact language.

The counter-argument being used often now is "too many offerings of the same item tend to tarnish the brand." Actually, my first instinct is to think something in such demand shows signs of health, and is first and foremost showing strength, not "tarnish." But, what sometimes happens is manufacturers or suppliers cut special deals to help them sell their products. That can happen in the course of business...you sometimes cut prices or use certain venues in order to sell what you need to sell. (Which, of course, policies restraining trade are stopping the rest of us from doing freely!) Then, the business that got the special deal tries to use its lower costs to its advantage and sell at lower prices than others can...in order simply to sell what it bought and make a profit. So, for a time, price goes down. That's a good thing for retail customers, as a rule. But, if too many deals are constantly being cut, it undermines price, and makes it tough to profitably produce and resell a product line. So, it fails. The answer: stop trying to cut deals that hurt yourself and work with the market to maintain healthy business practices, without artificially suppressing sales. If you have an item people want, sell it in quantity at a value price. That's how American business has succeeded really since the invention of the assembly line, and, certainly, since World War II, through the boom times of the 1950's and beyond. When it's gone away from that, usually for corporate reasons that have nothing to do with sustained success, and everything to do with the short term, business tends to fail and fail badly.

So, why should you care? If those manufacturers fail and fail badly in the long term, the things we sell that you want will no longer be available. Not from us. Not from anyone.

In the same spirit, we've said for years (actually, it's decades), "exclusives exclude." Well, this is one more gimmick. This excludes, too. Making venues available only to a chosen few retailers is just as bad as making product available only to the chosen few, or limiting supplies when demand is there for far more sales.

Ultimately, we need our suppliers to supply products we can sell. How else can one have a business than to have something to sell?

But, what we're seeing more and more in the 21st Century is a corporate attempt to take over anything successful. Ok, I don't mind them making money, either...remember, I'm a capitalist. But, rather than worrying about customers, forcing higher prices that don't offer value seems to be the goal. It's a bad one. Customers tend to walk away at some point. In droves. And, if the manufacturer or supplier are complaining today about tepid sales, maybe, instead of looking at how many are competing, more attention could be paid to whether there have been too many exclusive deals, or policy set by lawyers and MBA's instead of people who have had to deal with other REAL people across a counter and know there's more to it than supply v. demand charts the classrooms tell you are all you need to know.

Now, having said all of this, it's also right and fair to point out, on some venues, there are some retailers selling just about at cost. Or, far below cost. Sometimes many of them trying to unload items they bought beyond their ability to sell profitably. That's not healthy, either. So, they try to cut a deal and sell at a lower price. Just like the manufacturer might do. And, if someone pays their money and buys recklessly, well, as much as I may not like the kind of competition that perpetually sells at unsustainable low prices, they should also have the right to deal in a healthy manner with their merchandise in order to survive. So then they can buy more from the manufacturer later...hopefully learning to moderate their purchases...rather than going bankrupt and imposing that cost on all of us. That's the natural consequence of healthy business in a healthy economy. By stopping these competitors, the manufacturer only hurts itself, even if the short-term result is a market price lower than you might want in a perfect world...as a supplier. (Actually, as a repeat customer, you want a HEALTHY price, always, as it protects you from artificially higher prices in future. You want good value, and that's a partnership between customer and business.)

What we have always tried to do for our customers is provide the best possible value. No scams. No cheats. Partnership. And that's part of our job in serving our customers.

At a point where the corporate policies of many license holders seems to be trying hard to remove the ability of retailers to give you such value, it seemed a good idea to comment, explain what we see, and also explain why we don't dive in to every possible product line anymore. Being told we're not allowed to bring you the value proposition is a bad place to start relationships. We're in our customers' corner. They're the ones we've stayed in business with...nearly 39 years, and counting...and we don't forget who got us here.

Now, having said all of that.... We have an absolute and utter monopoly on OUR web site. Instead of the corporate attitude that foists artificially high prices on customers, we intend still to remain a haven for value and customer service. If you don't see us listing on certain venues, well...visit our site. That's where value prevails. We're still beating prices from anyone dealing fairly on anything except clearances from their inventory. We hope we continue to earn your support, and we value the loyalty so many have shown for so many years. We have no desire to "go exclusive" and ignore those most deserving of our respect.

As always, thank you for your support.

Michael Salvo & Patty Cryan
Mike's Comics
http://www.mikescomics.com

Jan. 15th, 2015

tardis

Big Finish Audio Subscriptions

The 2014-2015 Holiday season seems to have put some things off their normal stride in some areas, and, among these things, our shipment from Big Finish for December shipped instead in early January this time.

That shipment has just arrived, and all subscription parcels were just mailed. However, as part of the somewhat late arrival this time, we were only just informed Big Finish is no longer furnishing subscriber bonuses. From Big Finish: "There was no bonus release for 2014 and there will not be any more of these going forward...."

We are told to expect yet another shipment from Big Finish next week, if all runs as they plan, and hope to have the next main series audio, and many others besides, to ship to customers then.

As always, thank you for your support.

Michael Salvo & Patty Cryan
Mike's Comics
http://www.mikescomics.com

Dec. 21st, 2014

tardis

Obverse Books

Where most relationships we have with our direct sources give us quality items as soon as they are available, some of those relationships can be a bit more...involved. Such is the case of our more recent dealings with Obverse Books.

In trying to focus on the means of making copies of their book offerings more affordable for the US market, (which we feel has been a total success,) we had to also take a little time in working through some details.

But, we've finally sorted out an initial shipment, with the expectation of more rapid re-supply in the future.

We know some of you were expecting us to stock copies of these titles quite some time ago, especially the Iris Wildthyme and Faction Paradox books. And, we certainly tried to do so. But, at times, the supplier can only handle so much at once, so we needed to be patient for a time. Still, we know you readers of Obverse's offerings will find it's been worth the wait, and, again, our pricing will beat competitors on these books, while saving you some complications and costs from buying them from the reputable merchants who have them overseas.

For the horror and mystery offerings from Obverse Books, not currently listed on our site, please feel free also to inquire with us, or to our sister operation, Annie's Book Stop of Worcester (anniesbooksworcester.com) to see what we have available. As many of those titles are a perfect fit with a traditional bookstore operation, we're seeing first how they sell at a traditional bookstore!

As always, thank you for your support.

Michael Salvo & Patty Cryan
Mike's Comics
http://www.mikescomics.com

Nov. 22nd, 2014

tardis

ABSW Doctor Who Event on December 13, 2014

Our sister operation, Annie's Book Stop of Worcester (USA), will be holding a Doctor Who event on December 13, 2014. The store is located at 65 James Street, in Worcester, MA, in the center of New England.

There will be substantial prizes offered at the event, with suggested retail prices and cover prices of items totaling well in excess of US$1000.00, with many of those items already pulled and set aside for the big day! This will include two trivia contests with First Prize of each having retail value well over US$100.00 (when I say "well over," it's not US$101.00, it's a good bit more), door prizes and a costume contest during the day. Mike's Comics is the exclusive supplier of the items being given as prizes at the event.

The store is also well-stocked on a wide assortment of Doctor Who merchandise, and there will be in-store sale prices prevailing on much of that merchandise during the special event. Pricing there starts out already as the best available (typically 30%-45% below local competitors or SRP's), and we're taking those prices down just for one special day (which becomes an effective 40%-65% off on a great deal of Doctor Who merchandise)!

Further information has already been posted HERE, and we hope to refine and add details in the coming few days, including a schedule for events and sign-up, as needed, for selected events.

As always, thank you for your support.

Michael Salvo & Patty Cryan
Mike's Comics
http://www.mikescomics.com

Update: December 21, 2014
A quick thank you to all who attended and helped make our event a special day! We actually pulled well over $2500.00 in merchandise for prizes, and First Prizes from each Trivia Contest were valued over $500.00 (nearly $600.00) apiece! While it's a shame some missed the event, we're hoping to hold another next year at ABSW!

Nov. 3rd, 2014

tardis

5" Doctor Who Action Figure Releases

For those of you who know and care, which is many of you, you know Doctor Who action figures are sometimes a tad difficult to order in the US market. You know there's no good reason, and, I think it's fair to say, only a bunch of bad ones.

We were originally told we would be getting the Silver Nemesis Ace in early October, and are finally getting them here tomorrow. We delayed shipping the Time of the Doctor sets for those, but will be getting those out presently.

What's news to us today is the Asylum of the Daleks Collectors Set is actually available. It shouldn't be news. We asked after this set numerous times, even after hearing it wouldn't be coming to the US anytime soon. We never got solicitation materials, so can't even guess if others got them. We just found them already in the hands of a competitor.

Now...as to the word "available"...does this mean WE can order it? Well, it's on the distributor's price list, so we're ordering them. Unless that's shut down for some reason, we'll also be getting them. Better late than never. Stay tuned.

But, for those of you who we've already sent searching elsewhere, we can only apologize and explain we've gotten incorrect information yet again...many times over...and I can't honestly tell anyone why. We're trying. This should be as simple as asking, then receiving, then getting you what you want. We'll see what the suppliers are able to do for us at this point...so we can do what we should for so many of you!

[Edit November 5, 2014: We confirmed just now an initial allocated supply will ship to us immediately to cover Advance Orders of the Asylum of the Daleks set already on our system, and a little more. We also confirmed (A) solicitations didn't go out yet to the US for the set, (B) another retailer having these already in the US market is the recipient of a happy accident in their favor and nothing more...it shouldn't have gone out to them before today, and (C) the sales department of Underground Toys is aware their handling of this item did nobody any favors. We're hoping to see initial supplies now in under two weeks, and we appreciate your patience. Our price will be BELOW that charged by the other source who already has them in stock, as our price is ALWAYS BELOW their pricing. Your patience this time will be rewarded by continued savings.]

[Edit November 13, 2014: All but the most recent Advance Orders on this item are processed, shipped, in some cases delivered. The remainder of supplies is still in transit, with confirmed tracking of orders to be delivered within a few more days to fill all Advance Orders, including those placed in the last two days. Some orders, where it was possible, also got a free shipping upgrade on this item. There is still no solicitation material for the item, so supplies to other retailers are likely to be delayed still further. We understand now this was also listed in a wholesaler's magazine/catalogue, with suggested retail price on the order of $75.00. Our retail price, we believe, is lower than the wholesale price paid by retailers ordering from that source...who still have none of their supplies in hand.]

[Final? Edit November 21, 2014: Supplies were just received to allow us to finish processing all Advance Orders on this item, including those taken in the last two weeks. All those orders are processed, packed, and will ship with mail pickup tomorrow. Additional supplies are currently now available, with further supplies already on order.]

As always, thank you for your support.

Michael Salvo & Patty Cryan
Mike's Comics
http://www.mikescomics.com

Oct. 21st, 2014

daleksurprise

Upcoming releases

We are expecting shipments of The Time of The Doctor Set and the Silver Nemesis Ace Set within the next few days.

In light of the repricing of The Impossible Set upon release, we are forced to anticipate the same change in pricing when this item is released, despite no firm news yet from the supplier. Regular customers will be aware we will certainly lower our retail price immediately if a lower wholesale price is available upon release, and we will beat other pricing elsewhere. We are aware our pricing on this item, currently well before arrival, may appear less competitive than it will ultimately be, but all new releases in this line are now solicited to retailers from the distributor with prices specifically listed as "Subject To Change," which impacts how accurate our information to customers can be in advance of any new release!

As always, thank you for your support.

Michael Salvo & Patty Cryan
Mike's Comics
http://www.mikescomics.com
tardis

DOCTOR WHO MAGAZINE #479 now in stock!

DWM479_COVER

Just in time for Halloween! The newest monthly issue of DOCTOR WHO MAGAZINE has arrived, with the scary cover caption “HEAVEN OR HELL?” Articles in DWM #479 include a preview of the Series 8 finale and the challenges faced by Peter Capaldi as he wraps up his first season as The Twelfth Doctor, interviews with actors Paul McGann [the Eighth Doctor] and Samuel Anderson [Danny Pink], writer Peter Harness and producer Derrick Sherwin, and more!

Order your copy today! This and other magazine titles can be ordered at http://www.mikescomics.com/MAGS2.html.

Thank you, as always for your support.

---Michael Salvo & Patty Cryan
Mike's Comics
http://www.mikescomics.com

Aug. 20th, 2014

tardis

NEW ARRIVALS, Week Ending 22 August 2014.

Newly in stock this week:

* The Twelfth Doctor’s Sonic Screwdriver - Single Button Version.

* “The Impossible Set” 2-Pack... The Eleventh Doctor in Victorian garb from the Christmas special "The Snowmen" paired with Oswin Oswald in red from the Series 7 story "Asylum of the Daleks". This two-pack is in five-inch scale.

* DOCTOR WHO MAGAZINE Special Edition #38, the wrap-up of DWM’s coverage of the 50th Anniversary Year of DOCTOR WHO.

These and many other items can be found on our website as well as at Annie's Book Stop of Worcester, our storefront location at 65 James Street.

Thank you, as always, for your support.

Michael Salvo & Patty Cryan
Mike's Comics
http://www.mikescomics.com

Aug. 11th, 2014

tardis

12th Doctor's Sonic Screwdrivers

We've just gotten a call from the US distributors about a little surprise...a nice one for the Doctor Who lines!

The 12th Doctor's Sonic Screwdriver has arrived in their hands, and it seems they were trying to work with us on this one, and let us know we could place an initial order right away.

So, yes, it's ordered, we have confirmation it will ship to us within a few days, and we're taking Advance Orders (though, honestly, we were always taking Advance Orders on this, but now we're doing so with a verbal confirmation the item is about to ship)!

Priced by us at $24.99, we expect, as usual, our price will be hard to beat, and we'll be ready to ship as soon as they arrive at our door. So, let us know if you're ready to place an order, with the expectation supplies will go quickly on this one...an Advance Order helps you lock in the earliest possible supplies and beat the rush on this HOT item!

And, for those local to us in Worcester, please don't forget you can stop in at our storefront location at Annie's Book Stop of Worcester, MA, at 65 James Street for these and some unadvertised items and prices, while also saving on shipping charges....

Thank you, as always, for your support.

---Michael Salvo
Mike's Comics
http://www.mikescomics.com

Nov. 28th, 2013

tardis

Action Figure Delays

I've owed this blog a bit of an update and commentary for some time, and hope you'll allow me the luxury of some extended commentary here as part of an explanation of some recent issues and delays...as well as an update on incoming product.

As many of you are already aware, a deluge of new product hit the US market for Doctor Who toys and action figures, in time for many to miss the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who, and, especially, to miss sales and events like the one we held at our sister operation, Annie's Book Stop of Worcester (anniesbooksworcester.com) on November 16th.

Sadly, even for the best of situations, schedules now are slipping on nearly all releases, or, otherwise, there's no warning on solicitations until items are in stock. We try to coordinate orders in advance, but even the solicitations are wrong or incomplete in many ways.

In addition to this, we apparently have so many name imitators, the warehouse handling this tells us they were processing orders incorrectly, adding items for "Mike's Comics And [fill-in-the-blank]" to our orders, and adding our orders perhaps elsewhere. And, of course, corresponding billing issues with the shipment of product are involved.

While that's an explanation for delay...at least a good chunk of it...if I didn't have something positive to add here, that's just not enough reason to blog about it.

FINALLY, we're told, a great deal of backlog is about to be straightened out, and product we ordered is FINALLY shipping to us...later than the normal delay because of all the interesting handling our account has received, and, so, later than normal compared to some competitors we have, but, we're finally expecting arrivals in about a week of some number of items in demand, and already sold through elsewhere.

I'll get to a partial list in a moment.

However, first, I want to thank those who have been placing Advance Orders all along. They trust us to get them what they want, at the best price. We expect to do that again here. Nothing regarding this delay changes any of that. For those of you who went elsewhere first, saw our competitors didn't stock enough to help you, then came here after-the-fact...why did you go elsewhere first?

Second, we expect on all these products to fill ALL Advance Orders placed by November 24, 2013, immediately upon product arrival. This actually is after what should have been the actual release date, but, owing to current odd circumstances, is still before arrival here this time. The one item currently suspect for Advance Orders placed later is the 8th Doctor and Dalek Alpha two-pack, which is seeing about twenty times the order volume of any other in the series of 11 Doctor and Dalek two-packs. We ordered plenty to cover all Advance Orders placed by a certain date, plus a quantity above that...then saw our boutique competitors sell through on several of the Doctor and Dalek pairs (despite price gouging on those compared to the rest of the set!), and orders started flooding in here. This is one among several situations that can happen, and it's why we have an Advance Order system. When others don't get enough for you, our track record of filling well above 99% of all Doctor Who Advance Orders, even including allocated and limited edition items, stands alone. And, we're not playing games with pricing some parts of an assortment higher than others because we feel we have you "at our mercy." Why do I want to charge my BEST customers my WORST prices? We saw it done elsewhere. And, again, if you were going elsewhere first, I'm left with the question...why?

We also make you the commitment to try to give the best prices anywhere on Doctor Who items we sell, from the first day we have them in stock until we sell through. Not as clearance prices. As our REGULAR pricing. We aren't running all the bells and whistles of some through our web site. So, you don't have to pay more because of them, as you might elsewhere. An Advance Order with us is NOT a gamble on price...let others who use our Advance Order system tell you. If anything, for the earliest Advance Orders, we sometimes even add further price breaks when we can negotiate a special price. Is there anyone else out there doing that for you? Or even trying?

So, why do I belabor points like this? In large part because we help our customers most when they come early and place Advance Orders...and not wait for the mad rush after everyone else has sold through, after eBay scalpers push prices through the roof, and when it becomes too late to help. It's because we want to be able to help everyone, and with Advance Orders, we have our best shot. If you want the items we're carrying, lock in price and availability as much as is possible from ANY VENDOR IN THE WORLD for these items that get a licensed US distribution. If price is low somewhere else, chances are we'll still be beating it here. We won't waste our days tending a forum site, because we are busy actually answering our phones and welcoming our customers to call and deal with a human. While we run the business to make a profit, we know we're nothing without our customers, and we know enough to run our business for YOU, not for some corporate interests. And, if you think this is simply wrong or too good to be true, ask others who deal with us. Past, present, or future. We want relationships with our customers to last decades, not just seconds.

But, for this latest group of items...we're shamefacedly saying we couldn't overcome the issues at the distributor's warehouse for them, so couldn't get things here sooner. We're hoping to have items arrive on or before December 4, 2013, at this point. Among those items should be:

The remaining Doctor & Dalek two-packs
Silver TARDIS Teapots
Sound FX Daleks
Captain Jack with Doctor's Hand
Doomsday Set
Companions Set
4th Doctor
10th Doctor with Sonic Screwdriver
10th Doctor with Blue Suit & Glasses

Don't forget you can stop in at our storefront location at Annie's Book Stop of Worcester, MA, at 65 James Street for these and some unadvertised items and prices.

Thank you, as always, for your support.

---Michael Salvo
Mike's Comics
http://www.mikescomics.com

[UPDATE December 8, 2013: Most of the items listed did ultimately arrive in the quantities expected, but we did not receive any of the quantities ordered (and paid for!) of the new 3.75" variant assortment yet, and we were shorted some number of Doctor & Dalek two-packs from both Waves 2 & 3. While MOST orders are completely filled, and while we are expecting the remainder of items to be shipped to us presently, anyone with a partially fillable order...about a dozen of our customers...will be getting an e-mail update today, explaining the situation, and individual comment about whether we may ship in separate boxes for those whom more than one parcel should be sent anyway. We're trying to be frugal on shipping costs, while also being sensitive to Holiday gift-giving as possible. Assuming we receive the shorted items as we expect, we will have a modest number of 8th & 9th Doctor two-packs when our remaining supplies arrive...unless new Advance Orders to the limit of those supplies are placed in advance of that arrival.]

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