Sunday, 28 February 2016

Not The Comics You're Looking For?

Ah well that was a shame, Accent UK exhibited for the first time at Bolton Comic-Con and.....erm didn't do very well! Maybe we were due a blip as the last two years have seen our show sales markedly increase so maybe we were getting a little complacent about things?

All set up and waiting for some sales!

When you do have a setback you tend to analyse things a bit - and Dave and I had plenty of time to chat things through. We couldn't fault the organisation or the venue, both of which were excellent and well suited to the event, nor could we say that they had too many exhibitors. We didn't do an exact count but there must've been around 60 - 80  other vendors so not too swamped and both our table's aisle and the hall in general were pretty easy to navigate around so it wasn't like we were in a bad spot or anything.

The well laid out hall - can you spot Dave?

The trading floor (taken from the handy upstairs chill area)

Nor could we blame the attendance, which is generally the reason for not doing so well at some shows. In Bolton's case we had a steady stream of punters throughout the day - they had a staggered early bird/general ticket system which gave a spike in numbers for the first few hours - so despite the cold weather, they must've approached their expected 3 to 4,000 attendees? That sort of level would normally guarantee that we did well but it took almost 3 hours to make our first sale (!) and we ended up selling only a small fraction of our modest expectations of what we would expect to sell from that decent level of attendees!

Some of the other vendors, original art & steampunk weapons!
A retro gaming arcade area which seemed popular

What went wrong then? Well looking around before opening, there strangely were precious few actual comic exhibitors or vendors. Including ourselves, we counted only 3 indie comic creators plus 3 or 4 invited comic guests and no back issue dealers, so not a big comics showing amongst the many toy, print, canvas, merchandise, jewellery, greeting cards, cupcake and fudge sellers! There were also a couple of authors, including our delightful table neighbours, Nat & Phil Gosney, (check out her Wolf Born saga here!) so quite a varied range of exhibitors really.

And that may have been the problem as almost straightaway we realised that while punters seemed happy to browse the toys and merchandise etc, we and our comics were being ignored. Now we're used to having a slow start to shows but usually we have a fairly constant stream of browsers and chats with folk even if they choose not to buy or say they'll return once they've seen the rest of the show. At Bolton, we weren't even having browsers, it was as if we were selling something so alien to what they were looking for, they didn't even give us a second glance! We laughingly likened it to when you're at the supermarket and you unexpectedly see a double glazing salesperson who you then do your best to ignore! But it was worse, imagine those double-glazing folk being ignored at a window conference, that's how we felt, comic creators being ignored at a Comic-Con!

One end of the hall with movie props and Big Hero 6 cosplay!

Now of course it could just be us and the quality of our comic books but the fact that people weren't even looking at our table and our 15 year experience exhibiting tells us otherwise. It seems that folk were generally there for a day out and buying whatever merchandise or cakes took their fancy and actual comics were low down their priorities. And of course there's nothing wrong with that, certainly the families and punters we saw all seemed to be enjoying their day out among the colourful displays and cosplayers, just they didn't seem to be particularly interested in comics themselves?

Thankfully we had a few late browsers and finally made some sales ensuring we at least covered table costs with a little to spare. An unexpected bonus was meeting Gary and Team from Player 2 Comics & Games who are now stocking our comics in their Widnes and Liverpool stores, so there was value in attending the show. That said, we'll think twice about trying these again but are glad to have had the experience and at least we won't have to squeeze any further shows into an already crowded comics calendar.

Dave's view on things is here 

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