Almost three years after DC broke with Diamond Comic Distributors in the first major shake-up of comic book distribution in decades, it’s beginning to look as if Diamond — which has since also lost Marvel to Penguin Random House — is looking to make some changes in order to maintain the customer base it currently has. Could this be the beginning of a new round of distributor wars?
Following an announcement made at the comic retailer convention ComicsPro in late February, a letter written by Diamond Comic Distributors founder and CEO Steve Geppi has been sent to comic stores, outlining new, lower, shipping costs from the company.
“As you no doubt have heard, after implementing several cost saving measures in both our Home Office and Distribution Centers, Diamond will be reducing UPS freight charges on print material by 20% this April, and an additional 20% off the current rate in July, for a total reduction in UPS freight charges of 40%,” Geppi writes in the mailing, sent to retailers Monday morning.
The letter goes on to explain how the shipping cost reduction was achieved: “Thanks to the addition of CGA's consumer-centric business to the GFE enterprise, which increases our shipping volume, we have successfully negotiated more favorable carrier agreements. This allows us to pass along significant savings on UPS shipments of print goods to you. We are also in discussions with other carriers including FedEx and USPS for certain shipments.”
CGA — the Collectible Grading Authority, which offers professional grading of comics, toys, and other collectibles — was purchased by Diamond Comic Distributors parent company Geppi Family Enterprises in October 2021. It’s one of a number of companies and brands owned by GFE, including E. Gerber Archival Envelopes, Ironguard Supplies, toy manufacturers Diamond Select Toys and Gentle Giant, and publisher Gemstone Publishing. (A full list of Geppi Family Enterprises brands can be found here.)
While the drop in shipping costs will be well-received by Diamond customers, it’s something that many have been loudly demanding for quite some time; San Francisco retailer Brian Hibbs wrote in May 2022, “Actually figuring out your shipping can be trickier than it looks because Diamond does not break down your shipping costs tied to specific weights and boxes, and they charge you shipping at least a week in abeyance (perhaps more, some weeks – it’s utterly opaque). Because of the way that Diamond reports this information to us, it is extremely difficult to figure things out, but it certainly appears to most observers that Diamond makes a direct profit from the cost of shipping charges themselves, and that it is not merely passing on 1:1 costs. This is a thing that retailers have been trying hard to change for decades now, to little avail.”
Indeed, Diamond actually made headlines in summer 2020 for raising shipping costs to retailers, citing pandemic-related costs as the reason. “Our base shipping rates have not changed, but the landscape in which we are all operating has,” explained GFW chief relationship officer Chris Powell at the time.
Based on feedback from retailers, Popverse understands that both PRH and Lunar Distributors had more favorable shipping rates than Diamond before this new price drop.
In his mailing Monday, Geppi appears to make a dig at his competitors while talking up Diamond’s services: “First, as you know, Diamond does not simply distribute product. Diamond has continually invested in the Direct Market and evolved over our more than 40-year history to ensure we are providing vital services that have been specifically designed to support and grow your business. And we are the only distributor in our industry that does this,” he writes. (Emphasis his.)
For more on comic book distribution, keep your eyes on Popverse; we’ll be running an interview with Lunar Distribution co-founder Christina Merkler conducted at Emerald City Comic Con 2023 later this week.
Want to get more of an understanding of what’s actually happening with comic book distribution? We have something to help, right here.