Dave Cresswell always fancied owning a comic shop. Today he and his brother Steve are successfully running their own online comic emporium, www.comicdomain.co.uk
selling collectable comics to fans of Spiderman, Batman, Superman, Captain America and others, around the world, and generating sales in excess of £50k a year.
They launched their business in 2000, just as the web was taking off, and have done an impressive job of growing carefully and organically, gradually investing in technology and marketing over time, always reinvesting profits straight back into the business. Their entrepreneurial spirit and hard work has paid off, resulting in one of the most popular online comic stores in the country. And their story shows how the web can truly bring business ideas to life, without the need for vast amounts of up-front capital.
Working on ComicDomain in their spare time “almost just for pocket money” the brothers have learnt a lot about which ecommerce platforms are on the market, how to maximize search, and how to grow your customer base, even in far-flung parts of the world. Indeed ComicDomain has loyal customers in countries as diverse as Australia, France, Switzerland and even the US, (from where virtually all the stock is imported).
Dave says the company’s strategy of combining a web operation with an offline catalogue business that sets regular customers up with standing orders, has proved a winner. “Having the two arms of the business means that we have a degree of clarity about what we need to order, and if we end up with excess – more than is needed for our catalogue customers – we can use that inventory to clear on the website,” he explains.
In the world of comics – particularly US titles from Marvel and DC Comics – an event such as a movie release, an unusual storyline, or speculation on chat rooms about what writers or artists are planning for a superhero, can be enough to spark phenomenal interest and demand for product. “You’ve got to understand the market and keep on top of industry events if you want to maximize sales,” says Cresswell.
The Cresswells also now runs an ecommerce consultancy d2
, and enjoy advising others on how to launch online operations in a cost-effective, sustainable way. “Of course today there’s more competition online, but there are also endless opportunities and advances in technology are making it easier to business all the time,” says Cresswell. “We now have vehicles to use such as eBay PowerSellers, very flexible search marketing through Google, easier ways to pay such as PayPal. But you really do have to watch the costs, and try hard to re-cycle the money you make into the business, so that you can afford the next level of investment to take you forward.”
Dave Cresswell will be speaking on Day One of the Insights Conference
at the Internet Retailing Expo in March, focusing on ‘platforms, data feeds, and growth’. He hopes to share his learning about e-commerce start-ups, and illuminate and inspire others with fledgling web businesses.