Newbury Comics: Morph or Die!

As digital book sales continue to gain traction, the comparison between bookstores and record stores has gotten closer. Coupled with the comparisons comes an implicit warning that bookstores could share the fate of Tower, Virgin, and HMV—record stores that are all gone. While the number of independent record stores has fallen dramatically to just a couple hundred, some are more than holding their own. To find out how one indie is doing it—and also beating the odds on maintaining a profitable regional chain, PW contacted Newbury Comics, headquartered in Boston, Mass. The indie chain, founded by two MIT students in 1978 with $2,000 and a comic book collection, is coming off the third most profitable year in its 34-year history, is debt-free, and has $11 million in the bank. That’s not because music sales have suddenly grown—annual CD sales are down close to 75%, to $10 million, from a peak of $40 million, according to CEO and cofounder Mike Dreese. “We keep morphing,” he says. “It’s always morph or die.”

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