Via Newsarama, Diamond Comic Distributors – who exclusively sell most of the American comics industry’s books to comic book stores – have published a letter from CEO Steve Geppi, explaining that they will cease shipping products to comic book stores after this Wednesday, March 25, because of the COVID-19 pandemic:
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.
The letter goes on to outline the timetable for Diamond shutting down operations:
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.
Diamond’s announcement already comes in the wake of the British government’s decision to enforce a lockdown and close non-essential shops across the country. The news has drawn a mixed reception from many comics creators and professionals in the US, who stress it could have a disastrous impact on the physical single-issue market:
I would get it if this were "we're stopping or slowing distribution to keep our warehouse employees safe," but alas, that would require some lingering tendril of common sense or good will.
— (((Jay Edidin))) (@NotLasers) March 23, 2020
Just read the Diamond News. This is a HUGE blow to the industry. This has the potential to put already struggling stores under forever. https://t.co/Gam5UvGuty
— Adam Reck (@arthurstacy) March 23, 2020
Marvel and DC need to release responses by the end of the day.
Their silence will only serve as an epitaph for an entire industry and tens of thousands of jobs.https://t.co/EMk3XLFwqb
— Chase Magnett 🌹 (@ChaseMagnett) March 23, 2020
I'm not 100% sure Diamond Comics had a choice here. Comics stores are closing due to lockdown orders, and retailers would be pissed if some stores could sell stock but others couldn't. Still – you can't help but be amazed that one company could just…pull the plug like this.
— Christian Hoffer (@CHofferCBus) March 23, 2020
Amazon wins again. They purchased @comiXology and they’re soon going to be the only people distributing comics. I said the end of paper was coming soon but I didn’t know it would begin like this.Continued below
— TASK the Ol’ Nerdy Bastard (@UpToTASK) March 23, 2020
Geppi concludes his letter with words of encouragement for retailers:
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.