This has been happening for a very long, long time now, but in recent weeks it has become more apparent to me that many great independent stores are being forced to close down due to the pressures of the internet and the unreliability and laziness of local customers. Not only comic book stores are struggling, but from what I have seen these are being hit the hardest. Video rental stores, book shops and record stores (I was shocked and appalled to find not one place to buy vinyl records in Oxford last week); all are affected, pushed into closing down. It's a huge shame.
I think, to be honest, this is a problem with a root in several different places.
The internet is obviously a key factor, as well as large chains like HMV and Forbidden Planet taking custom away from smaller outlets.
However, independent store owners are not blameless...taking a stubborn 'I'm not going to change' attitude doesn't help. It seems to make simple business sense to alter your working practices rather than risk losing your business. Make a website, make a blog, get in contact with the people you want to come into your store.
I am not a businessman, but I am a fan, and I know that it was pure dumb luck that I stumbled across my local comic shop as an eleven year old. It was exploration of the most exciting kind, pulling comics off the shelves based on their covers in that feverish experiment that gave way to asking for more, for knowledge. The knowledge that independent store owners can give will outstrip any emotionless internet site, their hidden gems far more precious than the random nature of graphic novels ordered by the chain bookstores on the high street. That time I stole in the comic shop every week is incredibly precious to me now and it should be available to more kids.
The owners of independent shops across the country are fueled by pure passion, not profit, and they deserve to be rewarded for that. So go into the small places, the secret places, and buy from the men and women who truly earn your custom.