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Audio: Newbury Comics founder Mike Dreese on growing a retail business online and off, at MITX's E-Commerce Summit

Posted by Scott Kirsner  February 1, 2012 08:35 AM

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Sharing some audio from the MITX E-Commerce Summit last Friday, at which I had the chance to do an on-stage interview with Newbury Comics CEO and co-founder Mike Dreese. Our focus was how he'd built the company from a single comic book store on Newbury Street into a major New England retailer that sells music, movies, clothing, pop culture totems, and, of course, comic books. Online, Dreese oversees the flagship Newbury Comics web site as well as Punk.com, which focuses on edgy clothing and accessories.

As we chatted before the session, while scarfing down our box lunches, Dreese told me that he'd dropped out of MIT in 1978 to start Newbury Comics with his college roommate. They had just $2000 in start-up capital. Today, the company has about 480 employees, 30 stores, and $75 million in 2011 revenues. About $23 million of that 2011 total was generated online.

Among the topics we covered:

> How Newbury Comics got its start
> The company's late 1990s web strategy, compared to today's
> Mobile price comparison apps
> Why highly-trafficked malls are still important to the company
> The importance of sourcing unique merchandise, and selling it through multiple online channels
> Who should be allowed to speak for a company in social media channels like Facebook
> What Newbury Comics will sell when most movies and music are purchased in digital form
> The coming collapse of brick and mortar stores

Here's the audio. You can click play, or click "mp3" to download the file for later listening.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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