Entertainment chain Hastings will launch 127 direct market comic shops throughout the US in an effort to replace dwindling retail sales of music CD's due to digital downloads on iTunes.
By adding an expanded comics section to 127 of their existing stores, they're also set to become the largest retail buyers of comic books.
Hastings is a multimedia entertainment retailer that combines the sale of new and used CDs, books, videos and video games, as well as boutique merchandise, with the rental of videos and video games in a superstore format.
They have already implemented two test stores. These stores contain 32 feet of new comic releases, 32 feet of back issues, 44 feet of Manga and graphic novels, an expansion in action figures, role playing books, comic-related merchandise and supplies among other things. The tests were deemed a great success.
Gfest will admit that we did not see this coming at all. With the introduction of the iPad we have been forcasting the rise of digital comics and continuing decline of local comic book shops. It will be fascinating to see if Hastings experiment is a success. We sure hope it is.