At last we’ve come to the nitty gritty of retailing: cost. Three basic and fundamental costs associated with a comic shop: retail space, employees, inventory. Any retail store will require all three to keep the doors open and the lights on. Let’s take a look at each.

Retail space is your store front rent along with utilities (heat, electricity, internet), taxes, maintenance, and rental property fees. An average rent for retail space across North America is $10 per square foot. Add an additional month’s rent to cover rental property fees. Take your average home utility bills and multiply by 1.5 for a rough estimate. There are other factors involved, but best to have your eyes open.

Along with the retail floor space and its costs you also need to have a working store. This means store displays, storage, a cash wrap and a cash register. Here’s an excellent coverage of store displays; basic store layout with slatwall, bookshelves and tables will be $3500-5000 at a minimum. Along with these you’ll need a somewhat custom solution for displaying and storing new comics. Second hand office furniture stores are one option, as are online sources such as Craigslist and Kijiji. You’ll need some storage for product so include basic shelving. A cash wrap is needed for displaying high end items and having somewhere to set up your cash register; they’re $1500 average for a straight unit and go up from there.

A cash register today is a PC with connections to a cash drawer and printer. This integrated with a Point-Of-Sale (POS) system for handling inventory and sales. The two market leaders for comics are ComicSuite from Diamond and Moby from Bitter End Systems. A complete POS system from Diamond averages $5000 and includes everything you need.

Unless you plan to work every hour yourself employees will be needed. Not only do you have to look at per hour costs but also any benefits offered and payroll services. The more hours and days open the more employees required. In addition, we do suggest paying yourself a salary. While this might seem an unnecessary expense, it will be a huge hit later on if you suddenly decide you should be paid along with other staff. Decide on a modest amount that will let you pay your bills (both store and at home), and then pay yourself along with the rest of your staff.

Last but certainly not least is inventory. While you may be starting with a personal collection you’ll be working that Diamond account to get new product in weekly. That involves receiving, sorting, scanning, pricing and stocking that weekly inventory. The sky’s the limit on weekly cost and will vary greatly depending on the type of comic shop you want. A small weekly order, covering the new mainstream items with a few of each, will average $1000.

You don’t want bare walls but can fill space easily with one item per pegboard hook and shelving graphic novels and trade paperbacks cover out instead of spine out. Without knowing the customer base it doesn’t make sense to go heavy on any item: after some time open you’ll get a feel for what is selling and what isn’t. Plus a subscription service is the best way to know what people want.

With all the above in mind, an opening cost of $100,000 is not unreasonable. If necessary you could go a bit less, but we would never recommend anything less than $60,000 for opening a shop. Either way, this is a lot of money and, as with all small businesses, carries an element of risk, but the rewards can be great if you are willing to work hard and listen to your customer base.