Comic Book Shops: Croydon

Growing up in London, I never considered Croydon part of London – it was a suburb that marked the boundary between the sprawling metropolis and the boring country. This was misguided ignorance on my part, as I had never been there, didn’t know anybody who lived there or even looked it up on a map. What can I say? I was young …

Now that I live in south London, Croydon is not a distant mythical place, but a short journey on the train, which boasts two comic book shops all of its own. They are both within a ten-minute walk of each other, and I can’t see how it can support them.

The first comic book shop is a branch of Forbidden Planet, with a prime spot on the corner of the main street just across from West Croydon train station. The shop is a big space but it uses the large floor in a very old-fashioned way, with shelves creating aisles in a single room. It looks quite dark, despite the large windows letting in a lot of light; it doesn’t have the modern feel of the shop in central London, harking back to basic approach to selling comic books.

The shop has the same large range as the central London store – new comic books (although not a lot of old books), trades, manga, DVDs, sci-fi and fantasy novels, merchandise of various geek-related types – but all in a much smaller space, meaning everybody gets close when they try to shop, which meant that I didn’t particularly want to stay in the shop for very long.

The other shop A Place In Space, which seems to be a personal shop. It is a smaller shop, with the new comics and trades in the front open space, before the shop narrows towards the back, where they keep the old comic books in many longboxes but also other merchandise: many prints (mostly of women, it has to be said), as well as busts and superhero paraphernalia, such as a mounted Captain America shield and Mjolnir.

There were several people in the store when we visited on a Saturday afternoon, but they all seemed to be personal friends of the owner, chatting away merrily, as if keeping each other company rather than paying any particular attention to the shop or the customers. It wasn’t unfriendly – it just seemed unusual; I got the impression that the store doesn’t get a huge amount of custom. I hope they survive in the current economic climate, because they must run the shop because of a love of comic books.

3 Comments

  • Matt Burden 5 October 2011 at 5:35 pm

    The banter you experienced was clearly what's known as "rapour". A Place In Space knows it's customers incredibly well and I'm happy to count myself as both a customer and a friend of the owners. Had you introduced yourself, ditched the sniperish, mystery shopper act and engaged in conversation with them, I'm sure you would have come away with a lot more to talk about on your blog. To walk in to a shop with the sole purpose of reporting on what you find seems to fall apart when you just stand there. Surely talking to shop owners about what you're doing in order to improve a customers experience would be a far better use of your time and your blog.

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  • Mark Pond 5 October 2011 at 9:35 pm

    Like the previous responder, I too am a loyal customer of A Place In Space, and have been for the past 14 years or so. I have to say your review does not paint an accurate picture of the shopping experience that a person can expect to have when visiting A Place In Space. As you make reference to in your blog the current economic climate means where I choose to spend my disposable income has become more of a deciding factor. Let’s face it; whether you’re an avid comic book collector or some one who just browses, picking up the odd issue here and there, the fact is comic books aren’t cheap. That being said, given the choice, I’d much rather spend my hard earned money in an small, independent, family run business like a Place In Space who will appreciate my custom far more than a multi-national chain like the Forbidden Planet. The fact I can go into a Place In Space on any given day and be greeted with a smile and be made to feel that I am welcomed and appreciated, means my shopping experienced is enhanced, as opposed to the way I’ve been treated in any given branch of Forbidden Planet…as if I’ve been robbed by the robot-like staff manning the till (ok maybe that’s a bit harsh…but I’m sure you get my point). If I’m going to spend my cash on comics, I want to shop in a store where the staff make sensible suggestions and recommendations. I want to shop in a store where I get a personalised service. I want to shop in a store where the staff takes the time and effort to source hard to find back issues. I want to shop in a store where I will get a decent discount deal on my weeklies. In short, I want to shop in a store where I feel like I’m getting something back….even if it’s a few extra pence in my pocket, a smile and a “Thank you!”

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  • David Norman 16 October 2011 at 7:44 pm

    Matt: sorry that my thoughts on A Place In Space disagreed with you. I also apologise for being a quiet and reserved person who didn't want to disturb people I didn't know who were sharing 'rapport'. As to what is a better use of my time and blog, I think that's up to me.

    Mark: I'm glad that you are a happy customer of A Place In Space; I agree with your choice of an independent business over the chain store and your reasons behind it. However, I didn't intend to review A Place In Space, just say a few words about the shop, so sorry about that.

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