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INDIE RETAILER FOCUS Automattic Comics & Toys


Storeowner Matt Booker has helped put Corsham on the map, hosting annual sci-fi events and welcoming various comic-con celebs. Robert Hutchins discusses what’s selling well and what’s been impacting business the most over the past 12 months


The shop hosts a sci-fi convention every year and in recent times, the event has welcomed the likes of Red Dwarf’s Chris Barrie and Doctor Who’s Colin Baker


Can you tell us a bit about your store? We have spent 20 years in the small market town of Corsham. It was just a comic shop to begin with. We all had an interest in Star Warsand LEGO so we started doing toys and have just cultivated it ever since. We have done different things over the years, we got into Doctor Whoquite heavily and have moved in to other things like giftware and as much Minecraft gumph as possible. We hold a sci-fi


convention every year. Last year we had Chris Barrie and Danny John Joules from Red Dwarf. We’ve also had Colin Baker from Doctor Whoand a couple of Star Warsguests.


What is your background? I have always loved toys and comics. Childhood was LEGO and Star Warsand I have never looked back. I have written for a toy


website for many years, I used to write for Actionfigure.com and have covered New York Toy Fair and Santiago Comic Convention. I have done all the big conventions


How is business divided between comics and toys?


www.toynews-online.biz


For comics, we stock whatever people want. We can get anything from the States. The backbone of the shop is the comic standing order service and that keeps me going. The most popular figures


we do are the Star Wars figures. We have probably got over 800 different figures in store. We stock stuff from yesteryear to modern and everything in between. If it has Star Wars on it, I will probably stock it. The most popular are the


Pedigree Star Warsaction figures. I do have some vintage stuff, but really I just sell action figures to kids to rip open and play with. Whether it’s one month old or ten years, it’s there to be played with.


What’s your town like and what is your competition? We have no competition at all. I do more boys toys and older kids toys. The Corsham Toy Box opened up two years ago. She is doing more art and crafts and pre-school toys, so we are very different markets.


I did the Puppet Company


product once, but I exhausted it. It slowed. She took on a different Puppet line and I traded the rest of


my stock with a friend who had stuff I wanted. I do trade with a couple of other retailers to keep a diverse range of stock. We all try to work together.


What kind of customers do you tend to attract? Every age. There is no demographic here. The comic market has


always been seen as 17 to 20 year old males, but I have guys in their 70s coming in along with kids of six after the next Adventure Time and My Little Ponycomics. And what you get in comics is the same in toys, a huge diverse range that can


shop. Any kids that come in fancy dress get a free comic.


My Dalek comes down with a couple of Star Wars characters. We have a few guys turn up in costume when we do the Christmas lights switch on and raise money for charity. With Charity Sci-Fi last year, we raised over £20,000.


What toys sell well? I thrive with playground crazes, I just wish there was a good one again. Moshi did well, but that is dead. They destroyed it by getting greedy with it. They pushed too much product that then got heavily


Anyone who spends £20 on Star Wars toys gets a free comic. The personal touches keep you different.


Matt Booker, Automattic Comics & Toys


cater to anybody. People are realising that Geek Chic isn’t just for the minority like it was when I started out. It’s all encompassing.


How do you engage with your customers and the local community? At Halloween we have a fancy dress day in the


discounted. LEGO Minifigures are filling that gap nicely, but I wish Magic Box would do Gogos properly again. A third of my window


display is devoted to Minecraft. I am drawing from about eight wholesalers to get anything possible and it’s


flying out. I listen to what the kids want.


What is having the most impact on your business? Well, it doesn’t help with Sainsbury’s down the road doing their stupid toy sales. The big boys have stopped running these as much, they’ve realised they can’t afford to do half price on everything anymore. We don’t run sales because we don’t need to. The constant discounting of a brand that is strong enough not to be discounted, that harms a brand. The speed of turning product into discount product is horrendous. I won’t stock movie toys


anymore because it ends up in the discount bin of a discount store in the same week of release. But customers today


also want knowledge. They want you to know your product. There are those who sit on Amazon looking for it cheaper, but I ignore them. I can’t price match like that. I do give loyal customers deals and anyone who spends £20 on Star Wars toys gets a free Star Warscomic.


The personal touches keep you different.


January/February 97


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