There’s an album by a favourite band of mine from the 80’s, Big Country, called ‘Without The Aid Of A Safety Net’. The title more than appropriately sums up the situation I find myself in after 5 years of running The Unreality Store as a full time business. When I began back in 2020 I had set aside, what I thought at the time, would be enough money to keep paying the bills in relation to what I expected to be the time the business needed to become established. This was based on nothing other than a kind of acceptance that it would take around three years for the business to become self sufficient. What I hadn’t appreciated was this supposed three year time frame would not have taken into account the impact of Covid, the slow re-emergence of face to face retail, a Cost of Living Crisis and the fact that I am selling what is, in all intents and purposes, a luxury product.

As I hit the fifth year of trading on Monday 20th May I had well and truly used up all the reserves of cash and stock I held when i started, but there was also a sense that the business was in some way not too far off becoming self sufficient. Yes, there were moments each month when sales slow to nothing and bills need to be paid which causes sleepless nights, but I have managed to carry on - without the aid of that safety net.

I often begin writing these columns mid-month when things go really quiet and see them as some form of catharsis.  Equally I am conscious that if I were to share all the challenges and frustrations of running a small business in Sales To Astonish, it would come across so something like a continual lament and probably lead a lot of you to raise the question of why on earth do I bother if I’m always moaning 😂😂

Einstein said ‘The true definition of madness is repeating the same action, over and over, hoping for a different result.’

The fact of the matter is I have one main source of income (the website and I upload new stock now twice a week - Thursday and Saturday. If any of those launches as I refer to them fail to garner any interest then that’s an opportunity wasted and revenue potentially lost. For example, I dropped about 70 Bronze & Copper Age Conan issues into the store during May and on the day of the launch I sold two issues. Granted I have sold a handful more as the month has gone on but in future I will have to be more strategic in terms of product mix rather than taking a punt on what is in some respects a secondary Marvel title.

May, like most months, saw the usual mid-month slow down and as is customary I repeatedly asked myself what can I do to improve online sales outside of Thursday and Saturday releases. Social media rarely seems to garner much response other than a couple of likes and I simply don’t have the money to throw at Facebook or Twitter advertising and to be honest based on past experience advertising with those platforms I am not sure the potential audience justifies the cost. Anyone have any ideas 💡 😎

The penultimate Thursday launch in May saw a nice mix of Bronze and Modern Age Marvels. I sold a solid copy of King Size Hulk #1 VG- @£45 some Bronze Age Inhumans, early Ghost Riders and even a FN+ copy of that perennial bargain bin favourite when I was growing up - Human Fly #1.  In spite of those sales at that point of the month sales were underwhelming  so out of necessity I had to turn to running a flash sale on variant covers on 25th May. Unlike large businesses who run sales because they want to liquidate excess stock into cash (having already sold enough at the margins they aim for) I have to do these from time to time to generate revenue to pay the bills. Variants usually sell really well at 50% off but this time round the sale bombed. Undeterred I extended the sale to Magazines and the small selection of Silver Age comics I hold in stock and that immediately generated some good results.

The final launch of May was a stack of Copper Age Daredevil featuring the work of David Mazzucchelli and Frank Miller among others. They flew out almost as soon as they hit the store at around 530am!

Other than the Thursday/Saturday releases, throughout May online sales were sporadic but some sales of note were:

Amazing Spider-Man #100 in FN- @ £95

Amazing Spider-man #252 in VFN- @ £135

Adventure Into Fear #24 in FN+ @£35

Not Brand Eecch #1 in FN+ @£25

Web of Spider-man #118 in NM- @£50

Conversely Tomb of Dracula #1 @£295 was dropped at checkout twice during the month  (someone even applying a discount code to reduce the price) which was frustrating given it’s a nice copy and I had felt it was priced well.

When the dust finally settled on the month The Unreality Store turned 5 it was amazing just to see in how many areas the business has improved and grown over that period. For example, there are almost 2000 subscribers to the email newsletter each week, the business has over 750 5* reviews on Trustpilot, I have some great regular customers and most importantly despite the continued challenges, I still love comics 😎😎

Here's to another 5 years and beyond 👍