In this entry in our Guest Retailer blog series, Jen King, owner of Space Cadets Collection in Oak Ridge North, Texas discusses how the store has harnessed social media to keep operations running and the community engaged.
by Jen King
Because I have an amazing staff that I was unwilling to lose, I immediately figured out ways to keep them employed [when COVID-19 hit]. First and foremost, I was concerned with their well-being, so I gave everyone the choice to stay home and work from there if they wished.
That is where the art classes and trivia came to life, as they could do those live on our Facebook page and keep our customers engaged and connected. Because our youngest customers are so important to us (and also to help with the sanity of parents), I began a morning FB Live called “Kiddo Reading Time With Ms. Jen.”
It’s simple. I read books out loud, storytime style. We also had a part of our staff who could safely come in and work in the warehouse (we made safety zones for each employee where no other employee should go into). Those staff members ramped up our already-robust eBay store with hundreds more listings, and our regular shipping staff found themselves busy with shipping those and also orders being generated by our live sales. We provided curbside assistance from day one.
I love the quote from my good friend, Jesse James Crisione: “Always be selling comics.” We did every single safe thing that we could short of creating a web store (which is in the works still) to reach customers who wanted comics, supplies, collectibles, or wanted to just get comic news or reviews. I know that it wasn’t possible for some retailers who were sheltered in place to get physical copies to their customers, but my advice is to always be reaching out to be the place that already has their book held for them once they can move about safely.
Jesse and I have been doing Facebook Live on the Comic Book Shopping Network for quite a while (our two-year anniversary is on July 15). We knew we liked selling comics live, but we love lifting up our fellow retailers, and so started adding them pretty early on to the network. Working together in this way actually strengthens all of the stores.
We have proof of concept. We have roughly a dozen physical shops represented, like Chris Columbus’ Geek Geek Nerd Nerd, Aaron Haaland’s A Comic Shop, and Christina Blanch’s Aw Yeah! and also Jimmy Jay’s Jay Brothers brand. We also have a few publisher shows (Coffin Comics and BDI Ink).
The draw of that much great content and availability of product means that we have an abundance of vetted buyers spending money and helping shops stay afloat even with closed storefronts. We also reached out to shops just wanting to learn how to sell using the format on their shop pages and taught them everything we know. We want everyone to make it through this.
I am also involved in a fundraiser called Insider Art, which is raising money for female or non-binary store owners. It is a multi-faceted effort with three creative ways we are raising money: 1) Shelly Bond and a group of very talented editors have gathered groups of female and non-binary creators to put together a 200-page anthology titled Insider Art, 2) those same talented artists are also putting together a project on Spoonflower for an amazing Cat print set and 3) customers, creators and publishers are donating items that I am putting up for auction with all of the proceeds going to the fund.
I also, on the day that Diamond suspended shipments, started a Facebook group called Plan C, and populated it with all of the creators, publishers, and retailers that I could find and tasked them with brainstorming ways to get comics into the shops that still had any operating ability. Lots of connections have been made and I have been very happy with the large number of high quality super indie comics that I have featured in my shop and live to our customers, and it looks like the creators and other shops are as well.
Thanks so much to Ms. King for her contribution to this blog, as well as her efforts in promoting comic book retailers during a time of crisis. You may visit her store on the web and via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.