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John Jackson Miller and other pop culture archaeologists interested in comics history.

 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Diamond celebrates 35 years as distribution nexus of the comics industry

by John Jackson Miller

It's the first of February, 2017 — a red-letter date in the comics industry as Diamond Comic Distributors, the sales agent for most large comics publishers to comics shops in North America, celebrates its 35th anniversary. Watch below as founder Steve Geppi commemorates the day in a new video.

When Steve Geppi began distributing comics and related merchandise to fellow shop owners on Feb. 1, 1982, the comic book Direct Market was still fairly new. Phil Seuling began selling Marvel and DC comics non-returnably to comics shops in 1975, later incorporating with partner Jonni Levas as Sea Gate Distributors. Geppi was already in the business as a retailer at that time: he had left his job as a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service in 1974 to open his first shop, Geppi's Comic World, which operated out of the basement of a TV repair shop.



While his company formally began service as Diamond on Feb. 1, 1982, it had one warehouse and 17 customers — Geppi had already been doing work on the distribution side having taken over operations for New Media Irjax's Boston and Tampa distribution centers, according to the corporate timeline. There began, then, a long association with the comics industry. Many retailers have been customers from the beginning, and several publishers have been selling through it from the start.

Geppi recognized in a press release the contributions of his employees. "From day one, Diamond has proudly worked to deliver the best possible service to our customers,” he wrote. “Our ability to fulfill that commitment reflects the dedication of everyone who is, and ever has been, part of the Diamond team. Their accomplishments seem superhuman to me when you realize that they’ve been doing this for more than three decades. I am deeply grateful to everyone for their hard work, and I am honored to work alongside them.”



Chuck Parker
Diamond Executive Vice President and COO Chuck Parker, who has 32 years with the company, said "Our recognition of this special milestone reminds us of Steve's accomplishments, and those of thousands of Diamond employees over the past 35 years who have worked to make this company an innovative industry leader. Long ago, Steve had a vision of growth and professionalism for the comic book industry and has worked his entire adult life to make that vision a reality. It is clear that Diamond has been built on the inherent value of maintaining excellent customer and supplier relationships and providing an environment in which its employees can thrive. This is why many of Diamond's employees have been with the company for a decade or more — and we are very thankful for all of our hardworking employees."

As I noted on the occasion of a previous anniversary, Diamond was already the #1 distributor when I entered the business side of comics, just before the tumultuous times of the mid-1990s that left Diamond the only full-line distribution company standing. I've had many positive experiences with the company, first as a working journalist, and now as a comic-book creator. And of course, as a historian archiving the past of the comics market here for Comichron. I visited Diamond's headquarters in 2015 when in the Baltimore area to promote my Star Trek novels; I very much liked the chair in the lobby!

Diamond also has a long history of its own publications. Previews began to evolve from a simple listing into its more familiar catalog form in 1988; Diamond Dialogue was being published as a newsletter at that point, but was already including some of the sales chart data that this site archives today. While there is no longer a print retailer monthly,  Diamond continues to release the sales charts each month on its website — so this is yet another tradition that's continued for a quarter of a century.

A few historical events relating to Diamond:

1974: Steve Geppi opens Geppi’s Comic World, which operated out of the basement of a TV repair shop.

1982: Geppi founds Diamond Comic Distributors with one warehouse and 17 retail customers.

1988: Diamond goes national with the acquisition of Bud Plant.

1990: Diamond acquires selected assets of Seattle based distributor Destiny Distribution and takes over the operations of Oregon’s Second Genesis.

1991: Diamond UK, Ltd. begins operations in the U.K., leading to the acquisition of England based distributor Pacific Distribution, Ltd.

Steve Geppi in 1992, for Diamond's 10th anniversary
1992: Diamond’s Star System, which will evolve into the Previews Backlist Service, begins operation, giving retailers access to thousands of graphic novels and trade paperbacks.

1993: Diamond acquires England-based Titan Distributors Ltd., consolidates U.K. operations and becomes Diamond Comic Distributors (UK).

1994: Diamond acquires selected assets of New York-based distributor Comics Unlimited, Ltd.

1995: DC, Image, Dark Horse, and Acclaim choose Diamond to be their exclusive sales agent to comic specialty retailers.


1996: Diamond acquires selected assets of its largest competitor, Capital City Distribution. It also launches the toll-free Comic Shop Locator Service.


1997: Marvel signs an exclusive agreement with Diamond to service specialty market retailers. Diamond centralizes its customer service program and adds an Order Adjustment program,

1998: Diamond Online’s Retailer Services Area, the forerunner of today’s Retailer Services Website, goes live. Online ordering becomes available two years later.

1999: Diamond’s Vendor Services Website opens.

2000: Selected assets and liabilities of Alliance Games Distribution are purchased; Alliance Game Distributors eventually becomes a major operating division of Diamond. Diamond starts the Diamond Bookshelf program for librarians and educators.


2001: Through Alliance, certain assets of West Coast distributors Berkeley Distributors and Barchetta Distribution are acquired. Online reordering becomes available on the Retailer Services site.


Steve Geppi in 2012
2002: Diamond teams with retailers and publishers for the first Free Comic Book Day, designed to attract new customers to comic shops and expose them to what comics has to offer. The Diamond Daily e-newsletter begins. Diamond Book Distributors is founded to service the growing demand for comics and graphic novels in the book trade.

2004: The first Final Order Cut-off Form is posted on Diamond’s Retailer Services Website, allowing retailers to place orders up until the publisher sets its print run.

2005: Diamond opens its Memphis Distribution Center.

2007: Diamond’s ComicSuite Point-of-Sale software is announced.


2008: PREVIEWSWorld.com debuts on the web. Diamond’s Olive Branch Distribution Center opens with 600,000 square feet of space and a high-tech Warehouse Management System.

2010: Diamond launches kidscomics.com to direct young readers and their parents to kid-friendly comic shops across the United States and Canada.


2011: Diamond launches Day-Early Delivery.

2012: The first Halloween ComicFest is held, helping position comic shops as places to haunt during the lucrative Halloween sales season.

2014: Diamond introduces the Product Updates Email, which replaces the print Diamond Dateline newsletter.

2015: Diamond expands its Olive Branch operations by taking on 75,000 additional square feet of space adjacent to its main 600,000 square foot facility, used for reorder processing and inventory storage.

2016: Diamond continues to implement its multimillion-dollar plan of Distribution Center expansions and upgrades by relocating the Plattsburgh, NY, center to a 108,000 square feet – more than twice the size of the previous facility — and introducing numerous enhancements and innovations to the Olive Branch, MS, center designed to increase storage capacity, increase throughput capacity and increase accuracy.

More recently, Diamond relaunched PreviewsWorld and has also helped facilitate Local Comics Shop Day in November. Diamond is also amid an expansion of its Olive Branch facility, which you can read more about here.

“As we look towards the next 35 years," Geppi said, "I want everyone to know that we are investing deeply in our core business with better products and services and a complete upgrade of our distribution center facilities. For our vendors, this upgrade will enable us to better distribute products to our retailers. For our retailers, this upgrade will help us deliver product quickly and efficiently so that you can sell to your customers -- and those sales will continue to grow our industry. Thanks to the trust of our retailers and vendors, Diamond has accomplished much throughout our history. All of us at Diamond are beyond grateful to have your support and loyalty."

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