Marvel Comics and Penguin Random House Publisher Services (PRHPS), a division of Penguin Random House, have announced an exclusive worldwide multi-year sales and distribution agreement for Marvel’s newly published and backlist comic books, trade collections, and graphic novels to comics shops, known as the Direct Market. PRHPS officially begins its distribution to Direct Market retailers for all Marvel titles starting October 1.
Marvel has chosen PRHPS as its distribution partner to create a sustainable, productive supply chain and enhanced infrastructure for Marvel publications that will benefit comics retailers. Penguin Random House is known for its state-of-the-art multi-ranging services that enable independent booksellers to increase efficiency and profitability.
Penguin Random House has long been committed to physical retail in order to foster and grow their market. Independently owned brick-and-mortar bookstores are local community builders, advocates for books, and passionate influencers for the industry.
After seeing a double-digit percentage in closures of physical bookstores from 2001 to 2011, and notwithstanding an anticipated rise in e-books, PRH significantly extended and expanded its outreach to physical retail. Through its robust supply chain of rapid direct shipping, greater access to data, and premier customer service, PRH helped support healthier margins that led to a market turnaround. These past experiences and learnings will be invaluable when adapting for today’s physical retailers in the Direct Market.
Penguin Random House is a free-freight company, allowing retailers to simplify their business models while alleviating the volatility and complexity of reducing freight costs and planning. Through many of PRH’s standard offerings, like its rapid replenishment program for graphic novels and advanced supply chain, Direct Market retailers will experience more flexibility to manage inventory and stock their stores to best serve their customers.
Direct Market retailers can choose to order Marvel products direct from PRH, or alternatively, through Diamond as a wholesaler under terms established by Diamond in the US and the UK. Hachette Book Group will continue to manage distribution of Marvel’s graphic novels and trade collections to the book market.
Marvel’s full print and online October Marvel Previews catalog and comic book solicits will be available in July and distributed by PRHPS to active accounts. All comic book and trade orders for titles going on sale this October should be made through PRHPS. Early solicit titles will be available for order starting on May 26. Retailers can open PRHPS accounts now to register for Marvel’s monthly title catalogs and solicits, which will continue to be available to retailers approximately three months ahead of on sale.
The last year has been a rough when it comes to distribution. COVID forced Diamond to shut down for an extended time period resulting in DC Comics to pull their deal and go to two other distributors (which is now consolidated back to one). Other publishers have also pulled their distribution from Diamond often choosing to sell directly to stores and/or consumers instead.
With yet another distributor to contend with, comic shops will likely suffer by the decision. A third ordering system will increase time to order and manage purchases, labor costs will increase and it’s unknown how margins will be impacted for them. Overall, this sounds like a decision that’s good for Marvel but the impact on stores is a big unknown.