Reactions from across the internet on the announcement from Cold Cut that they were putting themselves up for sale:
It looks like re-orders specialist Cold Cut being up for sale stirred some of the same feelings in people. Not only did a company that somehow survived the years 1994-2002 announce its intention to sell to someone else, but no one seemed particularly surprised they would do so. Industries that grow by percentage points year after year in multiple markets tend to provide more opportunities for established business, not potentially fewer. Flush industries don’t glumly accept business leaving the field as a logical outcome.
Mark and everyone else at Cold Cut worked really hard for a lot of people who wound up turning their backs on the to get access to a sales channel that doesn’t give a shit about what they do anymore than the direct market does. In all that I never read Mark go into any anti-Diamond screeds or call for lawsuits or anti-trust action. He and all his partners worked extra hard and showed nothing but class while dealing with an increasingly awful situation.
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.
This turn of events is worrisome for smaller publishers, myself included, in part because no such intention was ever shared with publishers beforehand. There’s also no guarantee that Cold Cut would continue as a distributor even if it finds a buyer… the pitch openly suggests the possibility of converting the operation into a mail-order business.
In comic retailing news, Cold Cut Distribution got put on the market yesterday. This is a pretty big deal for a store like Star Clipper, which carries a large number of smaller-press books. We’ve actually been ordering less from Cold Cut for much of 2007 since they changed their discount structure and shipping terms, but we still order a fair amount from them. It would be nice if their warehouse were moved somewhere a little more centrally located in the United States. Right now they’re in Salinas, CA, and shipping on our orders takes about 5 days. Compare that with next day shipping from distributors like Diamond or next day (free freight) from Baker and Taylor’s warehouse in Chicago, and you can probably understand why we’ve been ordering less from them.
So with advance warning that Cold Cut may soon cease to be a viable distributor of their product, what will artcomics publishers do? They could encourage a new, independent distributor, one supposes, or, and I think this is the more likely scenario — they could focus even more of their efforts on dealing with mainstream distributors, who have demonstrated a better understanding of their needs, and certainly have provided better distribution than Diamond has, judging by what I see in mainstream bookstores.
Frankly, the progressive comic shops I have shopped in in the past five or six years, from Modern Myths in Northampton to The Beguiling in Toronto and others, have long since begun dealing with distributors other than Diamond to make sure they have the product their diverse customer base wants. No doubt they have relied on Cold Cut to a lesser or greater extent, but they are already ahead of the curve, in that they have been used to a multi-distributor business model for their stores and are probably far more prepared to deal with the possible end of Cold Cut as a player in the overall comics marketplace than the average superhero convenience shop owner, who wants to deal solely with Diamond anyway, out of either laziness, ignorance or outright hostility to any comics product that doesn’t reflect their own narrow, backward-looking interests.
While Cold Cut is promising that business will continue as usual, their dwindling stock is making me to suspect otherwise.
… a simple process of elimination, and the fact that there haven’t been any notable additions to their inventory since May, lead me to believe that they may have already given up on meeting the demands of the marketplace. Which, of course, is really depressing, because who do I get my books from now? Oh, right…