While the first few months of 2014 were tough for comics retailers, due to some slippage in popular periodical comics lines, graphic novel and merchandise sales remained solid, according to statistics released by Diamond Comics. The largest distributor to comics specialty shops in the U.S. held their annual Retailer Summit last weekend in Las Vegas and released a variety of statistics on the year to date (January through April).
While periodical comics sales were down 0.9% (vs up 10% overall in 2013) graphic novels were up 5.4% and merchandise was up 13.8%. The 2013 figures were +6.5% and +23% respectively. Total sales for the year are up 0.3%.
Individual Diamond accounts—generally considered as individual comics shops—were up 1.3% thus far in 2014. The increase was 3% in 2013 overall. The increase, though small, reflects the resiliency of independent bookstores that many have noted. Diamond Comics sells comics and other pop culture merchandise on a non-returnable wholesale basis to comics shops in the U.S. and the U.K. Last year Diamond announced that it services 2,368 accounts overall.
Diamond’s Free Comic Book Day national promotional event, held the first Saturday in May, grew again and was termed a “huge success” and showed massive increases in social media awareness. For the event publishers print special comics to be given away, and retailers can order them as a very low rate. The event is in its 12th year.
Some 4.65 million FCBD comic books were ordered, up 3% from 2013, and achieved an estimated value of over $3.2 million in free publicity in the shape of local press. The FCBD website had 554,000 unique visitors (a 45% increase) and 490,000 people used the FCBD locator service, an impressive 115% increase. The event was trending nationally on Twitter for much of the afternoon on the day of the event, May 3. The number of tweets about the event were up 51% and the account gained 31,000 followers, up 123%.
Diamond surveyed retailers on the event afterwards and 87% rated their event as “Extremely Successful” with 40% of participating stores getting 500 customers or more.
Another part of the survey (see charts below) compared the FCBD traffic to Wednesday and Saturday, the two biggest days of the week at comics shops. Retailers were also surveyed on whether they thought the promotion had created new customers.