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Modest recovery continues in July comics sales

Friday, August 21, 2009

The summer seems to be breathing some life back into comics sales figures in several categories, according to The Comics Chronicles analysis of July 2009 comics ordered from Diamond Comic Distributors.

The decline in Top 300 comics unit sales has slowed, and we picked up a few points in Top 300 comics dollars, thanks to six comics above the 100,000-copy mark. There was a generally stronger slate of event comics for July than in previous months, and it was our best month of the year for both Top 300 comics units and dollars so far.

Dollar sales of the Top 300 trade paperbacks continued their June pace, off 9%. Between frontlist comics and trades, the gap narrowed to 4% — and the overall figure, including backlist trades and magazines, appeared to be even or just slightly ahead of last year, by less than 1%.

The aggregate figures:

TOP 300 COMICS UNIT SALES
July 2009: 6.91 million copies
Versus 1 year ago this month: -4%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +13%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +3%
YEAR TO DATE: 42.4 million copies, -9% vs. 2008

TOP 300 COMICS DOLLAR SALES
July 2009: $24.18 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +3%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +36%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +42%
YEAR TO DATE: $144.46 million, -3% vs. 2008

TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
July 2009: $7.35 million
Versus 1 year ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: -11%
Versus 5 years ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: +34%
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 25 vs. the Top 25: +70%
YEAR TO DATE: $46.44 million; down 9% when just comparing just the Top 100 each month

TOP 300 COMICS + TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
July 2009: $31.53 million
Versus 1 year ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: up less than 1%
Versus 5 years ago this month, counting just the Top 100 TPBs: +35%
Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 25 TPBs: +43%
YEAR TO DATE: $190.87 million; down 4% when just comparing just the Top 100 each month

OVERALL DIAMOND SALES (including all comics, trades, and magazines)
July 2009: $41.59 million ($44.3 million with UK)
Versus 1 year ago this month: up less than 1%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +49%
YEAR TO DATE: $247.5 million, -1% vs. 2008, +35% vs. 2004

The average comic offered in the Top 300 cost $3.43; the average comic ordered cost $3.50. The median price — the middle price of all 300 comics — was $2.99. $2.99 was also the most common price of comics appearing in the Top 300. The 300th place comic book is again above 4,000 units sold.

While the overall figure for the month is flat or narrowly ahead, a caveat mentioned a few months ago returns this month, because of the heavy degree of promotional discounting done on softcover and hardcovers sold to retailers in the month. While some deep discounting happens in every month, July 2009 saw substantially more than July 2008 — well over than $1 million more books going into stores this month at less than half what the publisher usually receives. This has introduced some error into the “overall” statistic, as there is a wider than usual gap between wholesale and retail sales this month. I have adjusted to remove items that retailers basically got for free so as to keep the year-to-year comparisons valid — but I think the upshot at the end of 2009 will be that retailers wound up with more dollars worth of stock in their stores than the overall sales figures reflect — hopefully, they can turn those books into something close to their cover value.

Again, it looks a decent summer, compared to what it might have been. It's not time for Cousin Larry and Balki to do the Dance of Joy, but there isn't the carnage some feared, either.

The historical look back at previous July comics sales will be coming in a separate post soon.

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