DC’s Villains Month 3D covers to be allocated; retailers to be aggravated

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This news has been buzzing around for a bit and was apparently a topic of some discussion at this weekend’s Boston Comic-Con, but now news releases and statements have been made. It’s a little complicated so we’re simplifying it a bit for non-merchants, but basically, DC has been heavily promoting their September Villains Month event and the snazzy lenticular 3D covers—which look pretty snappy based on the ones we saw at San Diego. However, because the covers are plastic, they had to be printed way ahead of time—meaning that retailers had to order them way ahead of their normal ordering cycle, something that may not have been made entirely clear to them.

So stores orders will be allocated based on a “rolling average” of previous orders on the regular books. What does that mean? Shops could get from 50% to 100% of their orders. The rolling averages is so that those who only ordered two copies of, say, THE FLASH, will not be rewarded if they ordered heavily on GRODD #1, possibly for speculative purposes. DC will also release regular old 2D versions of all the issues, as well as the regular digital editions (but not in 3D), shipping at the same time priced at $2.99, a dollar less than the lenticular versions. Retailers will have their regular “FOC” window to order these—but it’s this week so hop to it.

But wait there’s more. ICv2 has a succinct, almost layman’s version of other measures being taken:

DC is also offering the entire run of 3-D Motion Covers again in December with the Villains Month 3-D Motion Complete Set.  Because of the time it takes to manufacture the 3-D covers, the final order cutoff date for the December shipping Villains Month 3-D Motion Complete Set is August 12th.  The Villains Month Complete Set will come with all 52 comics plus a copy of Forever Evil #1 with a 3-D Motion Cover and will be priced at $199.99.  The books in December-shipping Complete Set will all be marked as “Second Editions.”


Got all that?

DC’s co-publishers were quoted in the release explaining all this:

“Because of the time needed to create the 3-D motion covers, we were forced to set September print runs much further in advance than we normally would,” said Dan DiDio, DC Entertainment Co-Publisher. “As we got close to the FOC dates, even though we were very aggressive with our sales forecasts for the 3-D editions, it was clear that orders for these issues were going to be greater than the quantities we had printed. Once we saw from the first 3-D edition FOCs that we were oversold on initial orders, we decided to institute a system across the entire 3-D line that was in accord with previous retailers’ ordering patterns to minimize the impact of fringe speculators.”

“It’s very exciting to see how much interest there is in these 3-D covers, which are latest in a long line of innovations from DCE, like the fold-out poster in Superman Unchained #1 or the die-cut covers from the Death of the Family issues,” said Jim Lee, DC Entertainment Co-Publisher. “Our goal every September has been to create great, new ways to draw attention to our entire DC universe line and the reaction to Villains Month capped by the launch of our first universe event ‘Forever Evil’ has been just incredible.”


And how did retailers react? Not too well. San Francisco’s Brian Hibbs doesn’t speak for everyone, but based on retailer reactions we’ve seen he wasn’t much of an outlier with his column yesterday, with the sedate title of The staggeringly epic incompetence of DC Entertainment. Oops.
While not getting enough of what will be a hot book is enough of a concern, Hibbs greatest source of ire is what he sees as a failure to communicate—many retailers go through the initial order sheet and put a placeholder order of “1” in, knowing they will revise it closer to ship date with the FOC (final order cutoff) order. This time, that placeholder order may have to suffice:

So, this means that there ARE retailers out there that have been happily and aggressively promoting this stunt, racking up big preorders, selling full sets in advance of shipment, in some cases EVEN COLLECTING MONEY from consumers, all the while DCE didn’t officially or formally tell the retail community that these could be allocated. Whoops!

(Also: once you put “could be” in there? You are ASSURING that it is instead “Will Be”)

And some of the people who have been earnestly promoting this are also the same people who put down “1″ for their initial orders just like the industry has trained them to. What will these people receive? Tune in on Friday to find out!

So, now this isn’t just speculator book, it is out-and-out feeding frenzy at the trough as stores will be unable to fulfill 100% of the commitments that they made causes a rippling panic throughout just enough of the customer base that even stores that “get it right” are going to be trampled by people panicking/looking to cash in.


So there you go—if you’re heartbroken about not getting the lenticular 3D cover you want next month go tell your retailer BEFORE AUGUST 12th that you want the whole set, while will go on sale in December for $199.99. Or you can get the regular 2D cover in September, but again, better tell your retailer NOW, so they can order it.

Even the most aggravated retailers admit they’ll make a lot of money in September, and DC might even win the dollar month. And surely the rage will have subsided by the time the next variant lenticular cut-out, fold-out issue arrives. It does seem to have been a breakdown in communications here, though—the long lead time for printing was known right along, and communicating it in better fashion might have made more money for everyone involved—and made more fans happy.

Comments

  1. “However, because the covers are plastic they had to be printed way ahead of time—meaning that retailers had to order them way ahead of their normal ordering cycle, something that may not have been made entirely clear to them.”

    Actually, they set the print run well before we had a chance to order them. They are basing our orders instead on the prior months orders of those titles. So we have no idea what percentage of what we ordered we are getting until Friday. I did a big push and sold lots of sets, but if I only get my standard order for those titles, I’m going to be caught short across the board of just filling pre-orders, let alone having any for the shelf.

  2. Chris Hero says:

    This is the exact same technology used on CD covers 20 years ago. I understand why retailers would be upset, but on the consumer side, this just feels like speculator bait.

  3. Synsidar says:

    [Lee] “Our goal every September has been to create great, new ways to draw attention to our entire DC universe line and the reaction to Villains Month capped by the launch of our first universe event ‘Forever Evil’ has been just incredible.”

    That’s DC’s problem: How to promote the entire DC universe line at once. If they offered general discount coupons, weaker-selling titles wouldn’t benefit from the promotion; if they offered extra pages of content, weaker titles would have the same problem, the content could be expensive to produce, and the next-issue sales boost would be minimal. Shampoo and lotion bottles can have bonus packages attached, or be bonus-sized, but if a consumer doesn’t have brand loyalty, he’ll just buy the bonus packages of Pantene and Vaseline and switch back to Herbal Essence and Aveeno when the promotions end.

    I doubt that the stunts have any long-term benefits for the sales of series, but if advertising is too costly, stunts are among the few options DC has.

    SRS

  4. comicsatemybrain says:

    “Actually, they set the print run well before we had a chance to order them.”

    Which is exactly why Brian Hibbs is correct, DC Entertainment is incompetent. This is a mess entirely of their own making and was completely avoidable. “Forever Evil” may turn out to have connotations for DC’s management that they didn’t intend.

  5. jonboy says:

    I wonder how many retailers will sell half of their stock on ebay for 10x the cover?

    I guess I’d sympathize more, if the publishers weren’t offering all these cover variants or retailer incentive books that are often flipped for >5x cover price.

  6. Erik Scott says:

    “Which is exactly why Brian Hibbs is correct, DC Entertainment is incompetent. ”

    Except they also stated that they are already losing money on these covers, which is why they set print runs way ahead of time. And to my knowledge it was widely shared in June with retailers that these covers were likely going to be allocated. Them allocating the covers and setting them at a fixed print run seems to me to help the collectability of them in the long run and as such likely help retailers in aftermarket sales after the case, an aftermarket cost that will largely be in favor of retailers. Add that to the fact that the content of the issues will still be available in 2D covers, and I don’t see how this is that much different then the standard variant covers that are offered. The whole thing seems like a big ado about nothing honestly.

  7. If retailers can’t get enough copies to meet their day-of-release demand, they aren’t going to make anything on “aftermarket sales after the case”. The only way this can work out to benefit retailers is if they use the (deservedly) much-maligned early-90s tactic of marking up the books before putting them on sale.

  8. Synsidar says:

    Add that to the fact that the content of the issues will still be available in 2D covers, and I don’t see how this is that much different then the standard variant covers that are offered. The whole thing seems like a big ado about nothing honestly.

    From Hibbs’ essay:

    The worst part of this is that it will be claimed as victory, regardless of how many retailers get burned one way or another, because it WILL be successful financially. DC isn’t publishing all of their shit-selling titles during the month — and shit-selling titles is most of what the bottom 30 or so of DC’s books are these days, and they have pretty much guaranteed that the +$1 versions will be specul-leech bait. I’m probably going to make a LOT more money that month on DCE Product than any other month this year, but my problem is two-fold:

    1) THIS IS NOT HOW I WANT TO MAKE MONEY. I resent being tricked into carrying two copies of every release for the month, I resent that it will play on my more OCD customer’s worst habits, and that I’ve been railroaded into participating in it, I resent all of the insanely stupid extra work this is unnecessarily cause me in trying to track and pick and manage the two versions, work that exists purely because THEY DIDN’T TELL US THE RULES.

    2) IT LEADS TO NOTHING. Great, so OCD-guy will now give me $6.98 instead of just $3.99 for that issue of PENGUIN, but how does that lead to a sale NEXT month?

    It’s bad when a retailer has to work to protect customers from their own destructive impulses. DC’s options for promoting the entire DC universe line might be limited, but cover stunts that inflate issue prices is one of the worst options DC has. If people can’t be persuaded to buy the issues for their content, the market is ill, if not necessarily dying.

    SRS

  9. Factual things for you, Heidi:

    “However, because the covers are plastic, they had to be printed way ahead of time—meaning that retailers had to order them way ahead of their normal ordering cycle, something that may not have been made entirely clear to them. ”

    No. *DC* had to order them way ahead of ordering cycle, but they CHOSE to keep that cycle intact. They absolutely 100% did NOT have to do that, it was a choice of theirs.

    DC, itself, NEVER WHATSOEVER made anything “clear” outside of face-to-face meetings which (conservatively) less than 10% of retailers could attend. DC never sent out any post-meeting FAQ or information of ANY kind, and continued to promote this as desirable and broadly available to the consumers.

    While it would be accurate to say that rumor site Bleeding Cool had a third-hand report of what happened at one meeting, that report was RIDDLED WITH INACCURACIES. DC did not endeavor to clarify any of the points, true OR false.

    “The rolling averages is so that those who only ordered two copies of, say, THE FLASH, will not be rewarded if they ordered heavily on GRODD #1, possibly for speculative purposes.”

    While that, I guess, is a correct statement, you have to understand that the gulf between the bottom selling book at current numbers (about 30k) and the top selling book (about 150k) is vasty and profound. I think it is more likely that retailers ordering 2 copies of THE FLASH ordering heavily on GRODD are doing so to be able to sell FULL SETS.

    Not only is there nothing in the solicitations to warn one away from doing do, virtually all of America’s top retailers implicitly say that’s the single smartest sales tactic in a promotion like this one.

    While speculation IS (of course!!!) *an* issue, for the average working retailer, I expect that is FAR from their ordering intention here.

    “This time, that placeholder order may have to suffice: ”

    One other thing: I have an email from a senior DC executive to whom I brought my concerns about allocation over 6 weeks ago where his response is “Don’t worry, you have until FOC to make your decision”.

    FOC got *cancelled* for this month of books.

    “if you’re heartbroken about not getting the lenticular 3D cover you want next month go tell your retailer BEFORE AUGUST 12th that you want the whole set,”

    Again, let us be clear: this complete set is comprised of SECOND PRINTINGS, and from a “collector’s” POV, entirely undesirable.

    -B

  10. @Chris Hero:

    “This is the exact same technology used on CD covers 20 years ago. ”

    If these are even remotely like the advertisement from Nordstrom that my wife received ab0ouot 2 months ago, these are NOTHING like that 20-year old technology. On a photograph, at least, this looks ACTUALLY 3-D and moving.

    I don’t know what a drawn one looks like, though, as I couldn’t attend a roadshow meeting and DC clearly didn’t care if all of their client retailers have equal access to sales tools (not, I guess, that that matters any longer, since orders will be so steeply allocated)

    -B

  11. @Erik Scott:

    “Except they also stated that they are already losing money on these covers,”

    Except that DC stated NO SUCH THING. That was a misinterpreted statement third hand from a rumor site that you are claiming as truth.

    I have been told (look: more third hand!) that what was actually said is “We are making a smaller profit than normal, despite the increased cover price” — an ENTIRELY different premise…. but we’ll never know FOR SURE, because, once again, DC has not said one word to ALL retailers between the original solicitation (which did not state that, or anything about the POSSIBILITY of allocation) and two days ago.

    “Add that to the fact that the content of the issues will still be available in 2D covers, and I don’t see how this is that much different then the standard variant covers that are offered”

    Because my customers would have ordered the comic DIFFERENTLY had they known there was a cheaper version; because there is LITERALLY not enough time (four days?!?!!?) to solicit 2-D orders from customers, and it would be illegal to take orders for one product and deliver a different one.

    And so on.

    -B

  12. PS: you know who I feel REALLY bad for? (and these are not common words to type): Diamond Comics.

    I am told that DC didn’t inform DIAMOND of their plan in advance, either, and all of the DCD sales reps are getting angry calls which they can only kind of answer accurately (and in many cases like “how many will I get?”, AT ALL!)

    -B

  13. DanielT says:

    The “DC losing money” thing didn’t start with Bleeding Cool–it came from here: http://readcomicbooks.net/home/the-dc-comics-retailer-roadshow-report

  14. DanielT says:

    Of course, BC is where everybody saw it.

  15. Erik Scott says:

    Just playing devil’s advocate for a second, doesn’t the retailer hold any responsibility to follow up with DC or Diamond about rumors they are hearing about these books.DC has a sales department correct? And it seems they are, for the most part, fairly open with retailers in most situations where they can be. It does seem that DC should and could have been more transparent about what is going on here, but it seems to me a lot of this could have been answered by just approaching DC directly on it. I feel like a lot of times with this sort of thing, it’s always “aww the poor retailer” and they never really have to take any responsibility for following up with the companies for these things. It seems also that if they follow suit on things like this in the past, DC will likely make the non-3D covers returnable, which it again seems to be not as big a deal as people are making it out to be.

  16. SniktSnakt says:

    I have an easy solution for all this. CANCEL all DC titles in one fell swoop, then relaunch it again the following month with new #1’s…

  17. john layman says:

    Big thanks to ICv2 for that Layman’s version.

    I feel SO SPECIAL!!!!

  18. Michael P says:

    “3-D covers, which are latest in a long line of innovations”

    Only if you don’t remember the 1990s.

  19. Have to agree with Michael P – this feels like the ridiculous gimmicks of the 1990s are in full swing again. Selling comics as a speculative collector’s item and not as part of a story.

    That and to me, a moving 3D drawing looks weird… But what do I know?!

  20. Saipaman says:

    I was hoping these would be 3-D cosplay covers. Now that might really sell!

  21. Simon Jones says:

    I don’t think that I’m within DC’s target market anymore. I only read one or two of their books and not with any regularity, so I can’t really gripe about this as it doesn’t really effect me. However from a pure marketing point of view, this sounds ludicrous. Rather than taking a quick-buck mentality, surely everyone in the supply chain should be thinking of the long term, i.e. you don’t sell a car, you sell 5 cars over 15 years (or twelve comics over a year or something. I won’t try to put words into Brian Hibbs’ mouth but he seems to be thinking along these lines.
    Will this sort of stunt designed to give a spike in sales for the quarter or does it genuinely build brand loyalty? If the books aren’t being written/drawn/inked etc. by the regular teams, how does this help your regular sales? How does it help retailers to plan? My guess is that it doesn’t and that retailers are going to get the sharp end of customer dissatisfaction.

  22. Actually, that ’50-100%’ estimate is wildly optimistic. Many of our orders were cut by 60-80% and only an odd smattering of titles are shipping the full amount. This is the single most epic fail that I’ve seen DC execute in 25 years of retail.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Villains Month and the story that the 3-D covers each book has been solicited to ship with will suffer from allocation, meaning your store may receive as little as 50% of what they ordered on some titles. This [...]

  2. [...] among those in the spotlight. As part of the fun DC have printed 3D lenticular motion covers which, as you may have read, will have very limited availability. Sad to say that if you haven’t ordered them by now, [...]

  3. [...] extra for each if you really must have the 3D cover (which you won’t get because they’ve been MASSIVELY under-produced) – or you can miss out entirely on this special event. Now think about how much this is going to [...]

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