Graphic novel sales are up 2.9% and merchandise is up 10.4%, while comics periodicals were down 1.4%, according to Diamond's half-year report on 2014 sales, released during its annual luncheon for retailers at Comic-Con International in San Diego. All together the sales numbers amount to a 3.8% rise in total sales in comic book specialty shops.
Diamond based its percentages on the number of orders invoiced and shipped from January 1 to June 30, comparing those to last year’s numbers for the same period. Diamond v-p of retailer services Chris Powell said total sales, despite seeming small, are up 12% from 2012. The report covers the network of about 2,000 comics specialty shops in the U.S.
“So many stores are diversifying and carrying new products, which then leads to stronger, healthier stores, and that’s what we’re looking to see,” he said.
Diamond’s director of marketing Dan Manser said the “first half stats” of the year reflect the fact that a number of stores moved into new locations with more space to accommodate merchandise.
“They’ve been able to move into large locations because there is a lot of stripmall spaces available––with Borders and all of these stores going out,” Manser said. “We have a lot of stores that have 1,500-1,800 square feet now.”
At the luncheon, Diamond also highlighted its newly launched online tool called the “Customized Create-A-Sell Sheet.” Retailers can now create sell sheets in minutes, using drop-down boxes and templates created by Diamond. “The idea is that retailers always come to us and say, I don’t know how to make cool things for my store, so they’re asking publishers to produce things.”
Diamond also announced that it is reformatting its “liquidation lists” and presenting more aggressive pricing models, to be revealed in August. The new liquidation lists will feature comics deals one week, and merchandise the next, rotating week to week. Powell, addressing the many retailers in the room, said that being able to focus on print items one week and non-print items another week "gives you some time to really dig into the list and find things that will work best in your store.”
Rounding out the luncheon, publishers Titan Comics, Dark Horse, IDW Publishing and DC Entertainment promoted upcoming titles. Titan Comics highlighted its new Doctor Who comics; Dark Horse talked up its headline-grabbing title Fight Club 2, to be released in May 2015 and serve as a sequel to Chuck Palahniuk’s 1996 novel Fight Club. IDW noted that first prints of such upcoming series as a Transformers/G.I. Joe crossover and The Squidder have sold out and are moving to second printings.
Bob Wayne, senior v-p of sales at DC, previewed the publisher's November 11 release of Batman: The Complete Television Series, featuring the Adam West Batman. Wayne also announced that it would be his final time speaking to retailers in this capacity, since he is stepping down from his role in April.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve you as an advocate at DC for the last 27 and a half years,” he said, adding that he’ll be attending a few conventions before his retirement.
Earlier in the day a "State of the Industry" panel was held, led by retailers Carr D'Angelo of Earth 2 in Sherman Oaks, Thomas Gaul of Corner Store Comics in Anaheim,and Ralph Mathieu of Alternate Reality Comics in Las Vegas. The general prognosis was upbeat despite 2014's flat sales numbers. Topics discussed included events—Batman Day, which was held on July 23rd has been a success for most stores—and the widening audience. D'Angelo said his customers are buying non superhero books like Saga and My Little Pony instead of spin-offs from major superhero brands. Digital comics sales, once the great fear for brick and mortar comics shops, is seen as less of a threat and more something that helps customers find comics.
Gaul noted that the recent switch from in-app sales to web-based sales when Amazon brought Comixology may even have brought some customers back to the store when buying digital copies became more complex.. "it was more convenient for them to come on the store on their lunch break than get them on the app." he said While it wasn't a huge surge it was noticeable. "We saw some people come in that we hadn’t seen in a while," he said.
[Additional reporting by Heidi MacDonald.]