I Feel Sick #2, by Jhonen Vasquez Copyright © 2007So, I really like Cold Cut. In my duties as The Manager of The Beguiling, I put together between 6 and 8 orders with Cold Cut a year, and they’re very competitive on discount and stock availability for a number of publishers. When it comes time to do line-wide restocks of Slave Labor Graphics, or grab some out-of-print Tokyopop or Viz trades, or even our massive back-orders of smut from Eros and AG, Cold Cut are good folks to deal with who get us our product in a timely and well-preserved fashion.

You can imagine that I’m a little heartbroken seeing them trying to get out of the comics distribution business. One shouldn’t get emotionally attached to business entities; you’re all in this to make money and that’s as long as your goals are the same, friendship doesn’t hurt. But I can’t help it, as a retailer I really LIKE options when it comes to distributors. I like knowing that Cold Cut is there, and I’m sure that publishers like knowing that there’s another group of people out there working to get their books seen. Hell, my customers might not know how much they love Cold Cut, but they certainly love the considerably-lower prices on things like FILLERBUNNY toys and SPOOKY squeakers that are Cold Cut purchases from us. So, yeah, I’m bummed out (and they don’t even owe me any money!) about this, and I hope things come together for the best. I’m not holding my breath though.

Y’see… The writing’s been on the wall regarding…something…happening for a little while now. About a month ago, I stopped receiving Cold Cut’s weekly update of new product. I just figured my e-mail was bouncing or something, but… nope.  No new product coming in. I also noticed that earlier this year (maybe?) the company was down to one (excellent) employee named Matt. I sincerely hope that whatever happens, Matt ends up okay because his customer service is top-notch, and he worked really hard for our business. And I’ve been wondering for a little while now how the new shipping charges in the U.S. (basically: everything through the U.S. Postal Service just got a whole lot more expensive) were going to affect anyone doing mail-order/distribution… I wonder if that contributed anything? I have a feeling we’ll never know.

But you wanna know what the straw that broke the camel’s back was?

Dan Vado e-mailed me.

Well, he didn’t e-mail JUST me, he e-mailed a lot of folks, retailers like me. Dan Vado is the GodKing of Slave Labor Graphics, long reputed to be Cold Cut’s top distribution client. In an e-mail on June 6th 2007 with the subject SLG Publishing wants to GIVE YOU A T-SHIRT, Dan Vado put out a call to retailers to… essentially see if they were paying attention to SLG’s promotions by offering them a free shirt. But he also encouraged retailers to place direct reorders with SLG by offering good terms and free shipping–something most retailers can’t resist. I thought this was odd… The Beguiling are loyal customers of Cold Cut’s and I’d always thought of the two organisations, CC and SLG, as being pretty tight. For SLG to be stepping up their direct-to-retailer sales like this, particularly because it’s been The Beguiling’s experience in the past that they’ve been reticent to do so (at least for us), I figured something was gonna go down.

And now it has!

I guess the big question everyone is asking right now is “What happens if it Cold Cut gets bought?” I think the more important question is, what if it doesn’t? Folks who are happy and want to keep running businesses? They don’t GENERALLY put those businesses up for sale. Am I a dick for trying to decide whether to place an order now, or wait and see if they have a huge closing sale down the road? Or am I a dick for other reasons?

Anyway, the whole situation is just sucky and stupid and annoying. Tom asked: “What is it about the shape of that comics market where a boom period is felt more through articles claiming “This is a boom period!” than it is in the wallets of creators and retailers?” and I’d really like to know for myself. Are these sorts of things growing pains? Is Cold Cut just a hold out from the dawn of the DM to be replaced by technologically-advanced bookstore distributors like Ingram and Baker & Taylor? Or is there something much more substantial wrong with the industry right now where we’re selling more comics than we have in a long time, and some organisations seemingly can’t (or don’t want to) make a go of it? I wish I knew.

- Christopher


7 Comments on “Cold Cut Up For Sale… A few thoughts.”

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  1. Ed Mathews says:

    But Chris, dude… 4 day passes to San Diego Comicon have sold out! SOLD OUT! It’s true, thus the comic book industry is in a boom! BOOM!

  2. mhigh says:

    If you’re waiting for some deep discount sale…well, don’t count on it. We went over the various possibilities, and even if everything turns sour and the company closes down, it is highly unlikely we’ll do a blowout sale. Never say never, but yeah…we’ve talked about that possibility already and we’ve pretty much ruled it out.

    Of course, the best of all possible worlds is that someone does buy out Cold Cut, in which case the whole point is moot anyway. (And we’ve already received a few very intriquing inquiries, so stay tuned!)

  3. Dwight Williams says:

    I think I can see Chris’ point on the Cold Cut front, though, with a degree of clarity that somewhat unnerves me.

  4. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » July 13, 2007: Shorter Journalista 14 says:

    [...] Publisher Simon Jones, retailer Christopher Butcher, Armando Milicevic and Alan David Doane on the news that Cold Cut Distribution is up for sale. [...]

  5. Dan Vado says:

    HI Chris,

    Nice piece on Cold Cut. Since you mentioned our free t-shirt promotion I thought I should clarify what we were trying to accomplish with it.

    The main goals were 1) see who’s paying attention and reading the emails and mailpieces we have been sending out, That stuff, especially the pieces that we mail, is time-consuming to produce and expensive so if nobody is reading them then I thought perhaps it would be better to refocus our efforts elsewhere.

    2) To establish a better dialog with the retailers who DO pay attention. We have our own store locator on our website and I only wanted to put in stores which were paying attention. I don’t want to send potential customers to stores which might serve them poorly as far as SLG is concerned.

    Yes, within the context of the emails we did solicit retailers to order direct from us, again I was just trying to see how important this kind of thing was and to gauge a few other things about our reorder numbers. It was more a shot at Diamond than a lack of faith with Cold Cut.

    I have my own thoughts on the Cold Cut announcement which I have put on my own blog. I’ll just note that I have seen a lot of distirbutors come and go in 20 years of doing this (hey, there were 18 when I started publishing, including TWO in Canada) and of all of them Mark and his partners at Cold Cut were among the best people I have ever known.

  6. Jason Marcy says:

    It sure looks like Diamond will be a true monopoly now if Cold Cut goes down, a sad thing. here’s hoping someone buys it with full interest in continuing what the company does best: offer retailers viable alternatives for indy products other than Diamond…

  7. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » July 23, 2007: Surviving the Plastic Age says:

    [...] Canadian retailer Christopher Butcher sounded an off note as well: [...]

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