January: Always a perilous month for shops

In the vein of a similar report from California earlier, a report of a comics and games store citing the overall recession as its reason for closure. Torrance, Calif. store Third Planet Comics & Games closes Monday, according to the Contra Costa Times. “The deciding factor in this decision is that sales have fallen to a level where we can no longer meet our obligations,” owner Robert North told patrons in an e-mail. The owner of a nearby store in Manhattan Beach told the paper that there had been a “slight downturn” in its own sales.

Again, individual reports of closings and openings don’t give us the full larger picture — every store’s situation is different — and the macro performance for the comics industry in the 2007 appears to have run ahead of the general economy. But January is a month for comics industry watchers to keep an eye on. The first month of the historic “dead quarter” usually sees the slowest sales of the year, and back at the end of the last boom, something like 1,100 stores closed in January 1994, kicking off a six-year downturn.

Product mix also deserves a special look in this time — there are a number of non-comics lines that are performing more weakly than comics, so the “diversify, diversify, diversify” call of the mid-1990s might be creating some additional downside exposure now for shops heavily invested in slow sectors. Something to keep an eye on as reports come in…

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