The Comics Are All Right: Is It Simply the Cover Price?

It’s time for some fun with math! There’s a lot of worry from comic shops about their viability and speculation that 2017 will see mass closures of local comic shops.

Comichron has some stats for 2016 already listed, so I thought it worthwhile to see how the year compared to 2015 with the data we have so far.

What’s reported so far is Diamond Comic Distributor’s estimated sales. Diamond is the primary distributor for comic shops, so this is some of the prime data that we’d want to look at to see the “health” of hoe shops are doing. Again, I stress as I always do that this data are estimates and not perfect in any way.

diamond-data-2016

But what’s the year to year like? Below we see the gains and losses for 2015 and 2016.

diamond-data-2016-year-to-year

That’s a bunch of red in 2016 compared the 2015.

  • All comic sales are down
  • The Top 300 is down
  • The combined top 300 comics and TPBs are down
  • The average price of the top 300 weighted by orders is down

It’s not all bad though.

Comics not in the top 300 increased compared to 2015 selling 820,000 units more. Trade paperbacks too saw a massive increase in dollar sales.

Unit sales have increased as well.

  • All comics increased by 1 million units from 2015
  • Top 300 comics increased by 180,000 units

Trade paperback sales are up. Non top 300 comic sales are up.

The problem is pretty clear from the data, even though there’s more comics being sold, they’re returning less dollars, and there’s two data points that backs that up.

Dollar sales for the top 300 comics is down nearly $9 million and add in the 11 cent decrease in cover price the picture is obvious. More is being sold at a lower price which is causing a pinch of dollars.

It’s unknown exactly how many shops there are in the United States but estimates has it between 2,000 and 3,000 shops. $9 million split that way equals some serious dollars.

shops-loss

That’s a lot of money per local comic shop that’s vanished. Take into account some shops are doing well, that means there’s potentially a bigger loss for other shops. Those numbers above represent a month’s rent at least for some shops gone. Even with margins, these numbers show shops absolutely should be feeling a money pinch compared to 2015 and that there’s something there to correct.

 

2 comments

  • Great analysis – but I wish there was a way to understand how stores handle the mix of merchandise, card games and comics/GNs/TPBs. I suspect that many of the best in class comic shops have reduced their overall dependence on traditional comics and GN’s/TPBs.

    • That’s a good question. I did another piece that looked at what’s reported as “not top 300 tpbs and comics” and that number saw a decline over the year. So, magazines, toys, tshirts, etc, look to be having issues. What I think is interesting is that the top 300 saw an increase, so we’ve seen more units moved in 2016. My gut says shops who rely primarily on the top 300 are the ones that are hurting. The shops that have diversified aren’t doing as bad, or saw a good year.