College Park Comic Book Store Thriving in a Digital Driven Society

By Ryan Queler
For Unwind magazine

Photo by Ryan Queler
Photo by Ryan Queler

There is no question that digital sales continue to dominate societal spendings.In order to adapt to the ever-changing economic landscape, many businesses have cut down or ditched print products. Big Planet Comics, though, is going against the grain.

Despite the increasing modern-day competition it faces with digital sales, the tiny store, located at 7315 Baltimore Avenue, continues to appeal to loyal customers who prefer to shop for comic books in-store rather than online.

“There is no money for us in digital sales, so we don’t encourage our customers to buy digitally,” said Peter Casazza, owner of Big Planet Comics. “Instead, we focus on providing our customers the best in-store experience.”

Many Big Planet Comics patrons agree that personal interaction is a crucial selling point.

“Comics are more expensive in the store, but it is worth it for the atmosphere there,” said Alex Acuna, a freshman business student. “Big Planet Comics is a place to bring your friends and meet new ones.”

Not only is it a place where one can meet old and new friends, but also customers like Acuna have roughly 25,000 comics at their disposal.

“I love browsing the large variety the store has,” he added. “And if you don’t see an issue you want, they will order it for you with no extra charge.”

Just like Acuna, Margot Willis, a graduate student, prefers to peruse through the store’s wide selection. In fact, she frequents the store every two to three weeks.

“I come to the store to see new editions of comics I follow,” Willis said. “I like to look around the store to browse and get a feel for issues to see if I want to read the series, rather than receiving it from Amazon, and then not liking what I ordered.”

For a store that relies solely on print sales, Casazza has estimated that “60 to 70 percent of the sales are from returning customers,” and that “many are students and students’ parents from the University of Maryland.”

Despite the competition from the Internet, movies and television, Casazza said he is able to sell 100,000 to 200,000 copies of the best issues. In total, traditional comics accounts for approximately 55 percent of the store’s sales. To supplement those sales, Big Planet Comics also sells toys, T-shirts, games and magic cards.

“I believe that all small, unique businesses help add to the character and charm of College Park,” College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn said. “As comic books tend to appeal to a younger audience, a college town is a great place for a comic book store, and I believe that Big Planet has had the success here to demonstrate that fact.”

Casazza agrees, and he stresses the importance of keeping an “eye on the current trends.” He named the Walking Dead as an example of a show that brought in many new customers who wanted to buy the comic book after it was televised.

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