ComicsPRO, the trade organization representing comics store owners in the direct market, has released the preliminary results of a survey of comics retailers conducted earlier this year. The survey, which was conducted over a period of six weeks starting in late January, found that sales fell at 69% of responding retailers, which included both ComicsPRO members and other stores. Sales of new comics periodicals were down at 73% of responding comic shops in 2023 compared with 2022, while graphic novel sales were down at 65% of those shops. Graphic novels account for 18% of sales, on average, at responding retailers.

The direct market, the dominant distribution channel for comic books in the United States, comprises those bricks-and-mortar stores that stock periodical comics using a dedicated distribution system, and celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. The system has seen a shakeup in recent years. After decades of dominance in the space, Diamond Comic Distributors has faced a rise in competition, with a number of major comic book publishers leaving the distributor for such upstart rivals as Lunar Distribution as well as Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster, which have broken into distributing to the direct market in addition to through the typical books channel.

“While it is clear that the majority of the comics industry is experiencing financial strain, retailers seem to agree that their experience of that struggle would be mitigated through more coherent and consistent product data, reduced shipping rates, a continuation of purchasing risks to be shared by the publisher, and the ability to gather effective sales data on issue #1 of a series before having to finalize order numbers for issue #2,” Jenn Haines, outreach director and v-p of the ComicsPRO board, said in a statement. “Retailers are compensating for these struggles by diversifying their product mix with toys and games, as well as diversifying their sales channels by selling at conventions, to schools and libraries, and online.”

Joe Murray, president of the board, added that, while the survey “didn’t reveal any simple solutions, it highlighted the importance of diversity in both products stores carry to weather downturns and a need for diversity in staffing so different voices can help us reach wider and newer audiences.”

The key findings of ComicsPRO's 2024 Comics Industry Retailer are as follows:


  • Comic book stores tend to be small, family-owned, independent businesses. 88% of retailers work in their stores full-time. 81% of retailers have single storefronts and 30% of stores reported that they have no employees. Over one third of retailers reported that they have children at home.
  • The vast majority of comic store retailers identify as Caucasian and male. 10% of retailers identify as people of color, 11% of comic retailers identify as female or non-binary, and 10% of retailers identify as LGBTQ+.
  • 38% of comic shop retailers are between the ages of 30 and 49, while 47% are over the age of 50.
  • 47% of the retailers surveyed have been in business 21 years or more.


  • 54% of retailers reported gross sales of $300,000 or less in 2023, while 18% of retailers reported gross sales over $1 million.
  • 69% of retailers reported lower gross sales in 2023 than in 2022, while 22% of stores reported higher sales in 2023 than in 2022.
  • When comparing 2023 sales to 2019, fewer stores experienced a sales decline. 54% of comic book stores reported lower gross sales in 2023 than in 2019.
  • Sales of new comics were down in 73% of comic shops in 2023 compared to 2022, while graphic novel sales were down in 65% of comic shops, with a decline of between 1% and 50% reported.

Products Sold

  • The three main products that comic stores sell are new comics, graphic novels, and back issue comics. On average, new comics account for 38% of stores sales, back issues account for 16% and graphic novels account for 18%.
  • Diversification of products has become the norm, with most comic stores also selling non-comics product.
    • More than 80% sell toys.
    • More than 60% sell card games.
    • More than 50% sell board games and role-playing games.
    • Other items mentioned by over a third of stores are stuffed animals, apparel, packaged food and drink, and prose books.
  • The majority of sales occur inside brick-and-mortar stores, but stores are also looking for sales outside of their retail locations. 31% of retailers sell directly to schools and libraries, 29% sell at comic conventions, and 69% sell via mail order/online sales.
  • 97% of respondents offer comic subscription services at their stores. 57% of stores offer discounts on their new comics, while 39% of stores have a rewards program.


  • Almost 80% of comic retailers operate using a point of sale system. The most common systems are ComicSuite/RMH, ComicHub, Square, and Shopify.
  • 61% of stores spend money on advertising, with the majority of that expenditure happening on social media, especially Facebook.
  • When asked to rank a variety of factors that are important to the success of their businesses, retailers rated the shipping costs from distributors, and incentives such as returnability and extra discounts, as most important.
  • When asked to rank different issues that retailers feel impact their businesses in a negative manner, the overwhelming response was being required to order issue #2 of a series free of cost before #1 has come out.