You heard about Free Comic Book Day being delayed. You heard about movies like The Batman suspending production. But if you thought COVID-19 had hit the comic industry hard before, today was a true game-changer (at least in the short term). Diamond Comic Distributors, which ships product to most U.S. comic stores, has informed retailers that after this week there will be no new shipments until further notice. This applies to comics, toys, apparel, and any other physical items you find in your LCS.
In other words, for fans of physical comics this week’s batch will be the last one for a while. We’ll need to wait and see what DC and the other publishers do going forward, be it all-digital releases or a pause on new items altogether.
Whatever comes next, the industry — and especially retailers — may be in for some dark times the next few months.
Here’s the message Diamond CEO Steve Geppi sent to retailers:
CORONAVIRUS EFFECTS ON DISTRIBUTION
As everyone knows, the world faces ever-increasing challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Its effects on the comics & collectibles and tabletop gaming industries have been felt far and wide. We are hearing from thousands of retailers that they can no longer service their customers as they have in the past, many of them forced to close by government action or resort to in-person or curbside delivery. Even those still open are seeing reduced foot traffic in most cases, a situation that seems likely to worsen with time.
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.
EFFECTS ON DIAMOND COMIC DISTRIBUTORS
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 fulfillment 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.
EFFECTS ON ALLIANCE GAME DISTRIBUTORS
Product distributed by Alliance has been shipping from our Fort Wayne, IN and Austin, TX warehouses. Both are closing at the end of the day on Tuesday, March 24th, in the interest of employee safety and to comply with direction from local governments. Any orders not shipped by that time will not be processed until further notice. Your dedicated sales team will still be working remotely and will help you with any orders you’d like to place today or questions you may have.
OUR SHARED PATH FORWARD
With these changes in our distribution strategy, we will work with our publishing partners to develop programs that will address product already in the pipeline and what will happen when we resume distribution. We know that during this time you will face many challenges, and we will direct our energies toward addressing them, rather than fighting on increasingly numerous fronts to get product out.
For those retailers who remain open in various forms, I encourage you let loose your own creativity. For the time being, you will be able to replenish your perennials from Diamond and/or Alliance, but you should also remember the stock you already have in your stores. 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. There have been many solid suggestions offered about how to help our retailers, and we will bring many of them together in future communications.
Besides the industry’s most immediate needs, we have been and will continue looking toward the future, when we see stores reopening, bringing staff back onboard, and getting customers in the door. We are looking at issues like debt accrued due to this crisis, what reduced ordering means for your discount tiers, and the availability of credit to help stores through and after this difficult time. We don’t have all those answers today, but we understand the many issues you are facing and look forward to addressing them as partners who all have an interest in the long-term health of the industry we love so much.
As I mentioned in my last update, this industry has been one of the greatest joys of my life, from my days as a collector to a retailer to today. I and my Leadership Team have made these decisions knowing full-well the effect they will have on all of you, as well as our publishing partners and our own team members around the world. At the end of the day, the safety and security of our teams and yours, along with the many customers we all serve, is paramount. I again thank you for your ongoing patience and support.
Chairman & CEO, Geppi Family Enterprises