Comic Shoppe Talk: Neo Tokyo, London, Ontario
This edition of Comic Shoppe Talk features Robert Chamberlain, owner-san of Neo Tokyo, The Anime Store, located in downtown London, Ontario.
As regular readers of the Sequential Bestseller List know, manga dominates comics sales in Canada. We welcome this opportunity to get a snapshot insider's view of the retail side of this phenomenon. My thanks to Neo Tokyo for taking the time to answer the standard battery of Comic Shoppe Talk questions.
Neo Tokyo is a little over 700 square feet with the space about evenly divided between manga, anime (DVD rentals & sales), and merchandise. It is located close to London's core, having opened its doors in June of 2003 expanding ever since. It left its original location (just not big enough) in Oct of 2007 and moved up the street a few blocks to double its floor space. According to Robert Chamberlain, "We continue to refine the art of packing more into a small space than we have any right to expect."
You are next door to a more traditional comic book shop, The Comic Book Collector. What is your relationship? Are you in competition?
Not at all, Neo Tokyo began as an out-growth from The Comic Book Collector with the owner, Tim Morris, and I moving into the next door store front as partners. I've since bought out Tim (very amicably) and the two stores continue to work in partnership each attracting their own circle of customers but with a great deal of cross interest. I believe this helps both shops by bringing out customers that may not make the trip to either store on their own but if they're already at one they'll explore the other.
What is the general age/gender breakdown of your customers? What is the general culture of your store?
I'd say that the age range is from 10-30 with the majority in the 16-26 range. The gender breakdown would be in the 60/40 (female/male) area. The culture I try for in the store is one of a sort of club house. I try to make sure that everyone coming through the door feels like an old friend.
What do you sell more of by volume, graphic novels (including trades and manga) or monthly comic books (floppies)?
We don't actually sell any floppies. Having grown out of a more traditional comic store we never had the need to sell any. We focus entirely on manga / manhwa Japanese / Korean books with very few exceptions.
Bestselling I would say easily are Bleach and Naruto with Fullmetal Alchemist a strong contender.
What are your bestselling non-manga graphic novels?
If I were to be a purist and not consider the Korean books manga, I would say that it would have to be Banya The Explosive Delivery Man. Though the korean books still only represent a small fraction of the graphic novels I sell in a month.
The manga question.
Manga represents the future of comics in my opinion. Find a teen-ager reading a comic and odds are it is either manga or so heavily influenced by it as to be as good as. TV spreads the word of manga fairly well to younger readers but only a minority of my customers watch their anime on TV. Magazines / anthologies also seem to function primarily as an introduction but most new books are seen first via the internet.
What do you see as the major trends in retailing over the next year? The next 5 years?
I believe that manga will continue to explode and that North American retailers will have to adapt to that.
What books do you find yourself recommending the most?
Depending on the age of the person asking I find myself making personal recommendations for Eden Endless World, Claymore, Bleach, Dragon Head, Uzumaki, King of Thorn, Planetes, and Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service. Usually the first question is what have you read that you liked?
What comic/manga would you recommend for an 8-year-old girl?
I have recommended Aria and First Adventure King for younger readers but even then I recommend someone read with them to help with more complicated visual concepts.
What comic/manga would you recommend for a 40-year-old urban professional?
Depending on taste I'd recommend Eden Endless World, Translucent, Satsuma Gishiden, Tanpenshu.
Why are you a comics retailer?
I've always been a fan of a good story in whatever format you find it. I became a comic retailer because I was in the right place at the right time to make it my job to deal in interesting stories.
What bothers you the most about the current comics industry?
I have less involvement with the 'comics industry' than most comic book stores. I don't have to deal with back issues or grading at all but any problems as far as missed deadlines and delayed books are made much worse by the fact that they start out in Japan and have to work their way through the entire machinery to make it to my shelves.
How important is the web to your business?
As far as the day to day business it isn't all that important, it is an important means of communication with my suppliers and customers (most of whom are extremely web-savvy). I hope to make it more important by breaking into online shopping cart sales to allow me to tap into and service the surrounding satellite communities in our area.
What is the comics scene like in London?
Much as I would like to see more of it and I would like to support local artists and events London hasn't, as yet, had much activity of that sort. I would very much like to see a local con happen but it needs someone who knows how to put on such an event rather than a fan, no matter how enthusiastic, without the know-how.
787 Dundas St
phone: (519) 642-7862
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