So, with all this discussion about how alienating comic book stores can be, here is a super anecdotal, but I think useful, list of ways stores can be more inclusive. Some of these can serve as signs of a welcoming environment for otherwise wary customers and others as advice for people who work behind the counter.
1. You’re a store, not a private club-house
This is one that boggles my mind the most about the gatekeeper culture. We’re businesses, we should be constantly working to expand our customer base. More customers means more business, and it’s not like we’re selling a high profit margin product.
2. Customers come first
When someone walks in the door, great them with a “Hello, how are you?” and some variation on “Let me know if you have any questions!” I can’t go 2 minutes in Best Buy without someone asking if they can help me find anything and comic book stores shouldn’t be any different.
3. Don’t assume why someone is there
Ask them what brought them in today. It’s a great way to start a conversation and makes it easier for you to help them find something to buy. The couple that just walked in, maybe the girl is introducing her boyfriend to comics for the first time. Maybe the guy in the Batman t-shirt has never read a comic book in his life and leaves happily with a subscription to Captain Marvel, Hawkeye and Young Avengers. (Both of these obviously are actual things that happened in my store)
4. If it’s popular online, it’s going to sell
Is a new comic generating a lot of buzz? Take a risk and buy some extra copies for the shelf and put it somewhere easy to spot. A recent example is Ms. Marvel. We bought nearly as many copies of it as our best-selling Marvel title and still sold out of it in the first two days.
5. Keep your store clean
There should not be so many people who feel the need to comment on how clean the store I work at is. This is kind of a Retail 101 thing. Once again, this isn’t your private space, make it welcoming.
6. Be willing to change
The comic book industry is (slowly) changing and stores shouldn’t have problems keeping up. There are comics to be found beyond the Big Two, with companies like Image and Boom are putting out new awesome and innovative books every month. If you walk into a store and you don’t see award winning (and lucrative) books like Saga on a recommendation rack, take that as a warning sign.
If you’re nervous, go with a friend. If you do/don’t feel welcome, make sure other people know using awesome resources like http://haterfreewednesdays.tumblr.com/. Comics should be for everyone!