Day Early Comics Delivery a 2011 Reality

Diamond LogoDiamond Comic Distributors has heard retailers loud and clear and will be formally instituting a new “Day Early” Program. Beginning with shipments for the week of January 12, 2011 retailers can elect to have their comics shipped a day early (Tuesday) for a $4 weekly fee. Retailers have to opt into the program by October 25, 2010. 

This news may not have much impact on the average comic buyer, but its importance to retailers shouldn’t be understated. This decision came as a result of retailers’ persistent request for early shipping, which led to Diamond running a detailed survey on the matter for months and then making it a major topic of conversation at the Diamond Retailer Summit a few months ago. 
Ultimately, much of what Diamond proposed coming out of the Summit is what’s now taking place:
  • Comics will be shipped on Tuesday instead of Wednesday for stores opting into the program
  • Retailers will be charged $4 per week per account to cover cost of early release monitoring
  • Diamond will use a service such as Secret Shopper to ensure stores aren’t breaking release date
  • If a retailer is found violating release date, there will be a scaling punishment

    • First violation equals loss of early shipping for a month
    • Second violation equals loss of early shipping for 3 months
    • Third violation equals loss of early shipping indefinitely
  • For our UK friends, this means you’ll get your comics a day earlier (we Americans won’t)
What does “Day Early” mean for retailers?
When I first heard of this potential change, my initial reaction was ambivalence. But that’s because I was thinking of it as a comic book CONSUMER. But after the news became official, it was evident from speaking to retailers that this was a much appreciated change for them. 
Day early delivery is a great thing for comics retailers. It's not just a matter of making sure that you have your shipment before your doors open on Wednesday; it's actually having an opportunity to get acquainted with that week's product so that you're able to better sell it and discuss it with customers. Ideally, that opportunity will help retailers and their customers get even more excited about that week's books, translating to increased revenue for the store.Zack Kruse, Marketing Director, DCB Service
We are thrilled at the prospect of moving forward with Tuesday delivery of new comics for Wednesday sale. This will enable us to properly check in, rack and even read the comics we are offering for sale before we open for business. This is sure to lead to better service for all of our customers. It will also help create a more level playing field in terms of competition with other shops that already receive "early" delivery  – There are at least six such stores in our area. I really can't overstate how important this change will be for our shop.

That said, the fact remains that there is still a single distributor/distribution system for new comics. This allows language such as, "Diamond makes no guarantee, express or implied, of early delivery, and shall not be responsible for any direct, indirect, consequential, punitive or other damages which might occur as a result of Diamond’s failure to provide early delivery" and "Diamond may, in its sole discretion, terminate the Day-Early Delivery program, or change, alter, or modify the conditions and/or fees associated with the program" to be worked into the terms of agreement. If we don't like those terms, where do we take our businessTom Adams, Co-Owner, Bergen Street Comics

As far as Tuesday pick-up is concerned, Challengers is 100% for it. The comics industry is the only industry where the product is picked-up/delivered on the same day it goes on sale.  We're also the only industry foolish enough to have pull and hold services where we have to pull 100 titles for hundreds of customers every week and preferably before we open.  Clearly time is a factor.  What makes it even more frustrating is knowing that the shipping expediter gets the books on Monday and they just sit.  Chain stores and grandfathered shops have had the ability to pick-up on Tuesdays, but the message that sends to the majority of the industry is "You're not as important to us as these other stores are." Tuesday delivery/pick-up has been a long time coming and I applaud Diamond's ability to make it work.  And I'm impressed with the speed in which the change will occur once the topic was addressed industry wide.  I'm also astonished by the number of retailers who think this is a not a good idea, but then comic book retailers have always been comic book retailers worst enemies.  And as far as the weekly $4 fee is concerned, I would gladly pay that to not have to wake up at 4:30am every Wednesday.  If it helps keep everybody on their toes, all the better. Patrick Brower, Co-Owner, Challengers Comics + Conversation
The theoretical benefits as I see them:
  • Competitive Balance – Diamond’s largest customers have already enjoyed Tuesday deliveries, so this is a leveling of the playing field for smaller retailers. Particularly those who compete in larger metropolitan markets against stores that already get their books early
  • Staffing & Workflow – Comic stores don’t typically overstaff because it cuts into already thin profit margins, but when you get comics on the morning of the day a majority of buyers will be looking for them, it either requires you to staff up on Wednesday to handle unpacking and pull lists while simultaneously managing the cash register or it means running around like a chicken with its head cut off. Having books on Tuesday should provide a much smoother workflow for retailers (at least the relatively organized ones)
  • Emergencies & Missed Shipments – In the unfortunate case of damaged books or missed shipments, now stores won’t be without key inventory with no time to react. Owners can do an inventory on Tuesday and be better equipped to have stock overnighted or routed to their store to better handle the Wednesday push
  • Customer Marketing – Store owners can look through their shipments now and get a sense of which books look/read the best, which ones are surprisingly strong, which ones are perhaps not as strong as they hoped. While this may not seem like much, imagine a scenario where an owner sends out an email to subscription clients on Tuesday night highlighting a handful of books to look for when they come into the store? Or flip side, let’s say a store owner reads a comic, doesn’t love it, and realizes they over ordered the title. In the past, they would simply have to hope the book flies off the shelves. But now they could theoretically offer an on the fly discount, and email that to customers the day before. For example, “Acme Comics #1 will be 50% off cover price tomorrow!” It’s a great weapon to manage inventory mistakes.
A step in the right direction, but not a cure-all
It should go without saying that this is a step in the right direction, but isn’t any sort of magic bullet for the direct market. What it does show is a sign of good faith for Diamond, who is oft-maligned (sometimes fairly, sometimes unfairly). But retailers are still mindful of the fact Diamond remains a virtual monopoly and has the right, if this program doesn’t go according to plan, to make changes in any way it deems appropriate. It also gives the retailers an added tool in their arsenal. But this will only be an asset if the retailer makes it an asset. Store owners who are willing to stay late on Tuesdays, and to be proactive with their outbound marketing, stand to add incremental value and profit. To those who simply view this as a slight change to their weekly process, it’ll be just as inconsequential to their bottom line. 

Jason is a mutant with the ability to squeeze 36 hours into every 24-hour day, which is why he was able to convince his wife he had time to join the iFanboy team on top of running his business, raising his three sons, and most importantly, co-hosting the 11 O'Clock Comics podcast with his buddies Vince B, Chris Neseman and David Price. If you are one of the twelve people on Earth who want to read about comics, the stock market and football in rapid fire succession, you can follow him on Twitter.


  1. booo

  2. Aww, I thought it meant a day early for us buying comics.

  3. @tschafer  Why booo?     There don’t appear to be a lot of negative here.  Seems like this will definetly be better for the retailer and even better for the consumer.

  4. My shop owner has already decided he is going to sign up for this.  He has had FedEx problems for years.  He’s actually rather excited about it.

  5. I never fully understood how messed up the direct market is until i started following this story. I can’t believe retailers get up at 4:30am to pick up product the day its supposed to go on sale. Thats just so medieval sounding. 

    This sounds like a win for consumers. Whenever i go into my new LCS on a Wednesday, they’re scrambling with diamond boxes all over the floor and stuff trickling in from Fed Ex trying to stock the shelves, with customers in the store. Its to the point where its easier to go in on Thursday instead of asking for things that may not have been unpacked yet. I totally took for-granted my old shop before i moved that got that preferred treatment….they were always ready at 10am Wed with all the new books. 

  6. I’m in England, can I get my comics on a Wednesday now?

  7. This works out perfect. Wednesdays are now taken. Perfect.

  8. Good article, though I don’t know if this will have much of an effect for anyone other than the die hard weekly comic buyer as stated here.

    I read a lot of comics, but I’m reading them all in trade.  I don’t have a LCS, so I am not effected one way or another by this – if anything it is diamond still wrestling with the evolving digital market trying to keep their grasp on their distribution monopoly.  I’m glad this is helping your LCS in the ways described in this article, but I don’t think this will help grow the overall comics market like the development of digital is going to when tablets and apps become more common place.

    As a 100% trade waiter, digital is the model which will get me to jump on board to monthlies – though again I’m happy that the current market model will improve with this move to Tuesday deliveries.

  9. Sounds like a great idea.  My shop doesn’t open until 3 PM on Wednesdays just so they can get all the stocks shelved and the pull lists done.  Thats a pain in the neck for someone like me who likes to get his books early on Wednesday.  Now they can do pull lists on Tues. which is usually the slow day anyway.

  10. My shop owner was prety excited about this as well.  At the moment, he gets up at 5:00 am to pick up his comics, set up the store, do pull lists, etc.  He’s totally fried by the end of the day. 

  11. It’s funny that the DCBS marketing director said how this change is going to affect traditional comic book stores, but not if and how is going to affect DCBS business.

  12. @odino1 Zack (DCBS) runs a very popular mail order service but they also have a traditional LCS store in Indiana. This won’t have much of an impact on their business as much as smaller stores, Zack was instead speaking about the positive effect this will have on the industry as a whole.

  13. Nice article, Jason.  I think the ability for the owner and maybe even the clerks to read material the day before will help sales.  At a minimum, it will decrease the number of times that a customer walks into a store and says "what’s good this week" or "hey, how is new comic, Thor: The Mighty Avenger?", and getting a blank stare in return.

  14. "Virtual" monopoly? I thought they were an actual monopoly. Is there some other way for comic book shops to get their stock?


  15. My store owner is pleased I’m sure. Hopefully, this means DCBS can also ship orders out faster.

  16. Now here in the Uk we’ll be able to say ‘How Long Until Wednesday?’ – not ‘How Long Until Thursday Or Friday If It’s A Bank Holiday’.

  17. I’m hoping this means I get my DCB Service box on Thursdays instead of Fridays ….

  18. @AlanRob – I skimmed the article, thought it was about retailers having Wednesday comics on Tuesday. 

    I publicly retrack my "booo".

  19. Thanks for th clarification about my statement, Wood! I was speaking about how it will and should help shops in general–which is what’s best for ALL of us. The more obstacles removed from retailers’ paths, the better. 

    @odino1, @NawidA, @Notahiro: The impact for us will not be as great as will be for many other shops (Like Jason had said) as we are one of the stores who had previously qualified for Tuesday delivery. But, again, this is an industry issue and not about the minority of retailers who were already getting Tuesday delivery.

    Regarding customers possibly receiving shipments earlier as a result of this change: unfortunately that will not happen. We strictly abide by Diamond’s rules for release dates and are not permitted, and do not, send out shipments prior to the scheduled release date. So, so long as Wednesday remains the release day, shipments will not begin to leave until Wednesday.

  20. it looks like this is a compromise not an win-win situation!