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Retailers bought at least 3 million more comics in 2011

Monday, January 9, 2012

by John Jackson Miller


Diamond Comic Distributors has released the full report for last month, and it completes the picture for the year for comics sales to North American comics shops. Click to see the sales estimates for December 2011.

As reported here on Friday, sales of periodical comics to comics shops went up during the year: sales of issues ranking in Diamond's Top 300 each month increased by nearly 3 million copies, to 72.13 million for the year. Getting back above 70 million in 2002 was a major step in the in industry recovery in the 2000s. Dollar sales within the Top 300 went up nearly $3 million for the year, a fact made more important because cover prices dropped in the year.

That's right: The average price of comic books dropped by about a dime in 2011. The average cost of all 3,600 comic books appearing in all twelve monthly Top 300 lists was $3.49, down from $3.58. The average price of comics ordered by retailers within that grouping was $3.44, down from $3.55.  (Click to see the table for average prices each month.) It is the first annual drop in either category since 2003, and it represents two factors: price drops by some publishers, particularly DC, earlier in the year; and also the weighting of the Top 300 toward DC in the fall with the DC relaunch. Average prices ticked up in December, for example, to $3.55 ($3.45 weighted); that's not so much a reflection of a rise in prices as it is a reflection of DC's smaller presence in the Top 300 as more of its reordered relaunch issues dropped out of the tables.

The trade paperback category suffered in comparison with 2011, but not by much: the Top 300 trades and graphic novels each month went for $70 million, down from $76.3 million last year. That accounted for the entire shortfall for the year when comics and trades were combined; that total dropped from $322 million to $318.5 million in 2011. Essentially, had trades simply remained flat, the year would have been up by as much as it was down — a figure less than 1%.

It's also noteworthy that the Top 300 trades were off 8% for the year, while the overall trade category was off 5%. That indicates that sales were better in the "long tail," which grows longer every year as long as Diamond has shelf spaces for the individual books.

The aggregate figures:

TOP 300 COMICS UNIT SALES
December 2011: 6.16 million copies
Versus 1 year ago this month: +11%
Versus 5 years ago this month: -12%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +8%
Versus 15 years ago this month: -40%
4th Quarter 2011: 20.76 million copies, +23% vs. 2010
2011 Year-End: 72.13 million copies, +4% vs. 2010, -12% vs. 2006, +8% vs. 2001

ALL COMICS UNIT SALES
December 2011 versus one year ago this month: +11.83%
2011 Year-End: +4.57%

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TOP 300 COMICS DOLLAR SALES
December 2011: $21.25 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -7%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +2%
Versus 10 years ago this month: +36%
4th Quarter 2011: $70.95 million, +16% vs. 2010
2011 Year-End: $248.44 million, +1% vs. 2010, -1% vs. 2006, +33% vs. 2001

ALL COMICS DOLLAR SALES
December 2011 versus one year ago this month: +2.66%
2011 Year-End: +1.16%

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TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
December 2011: $6.06 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -7%
Versus 5 years ago this month, just the Top 100 vs. the Top 100: +2%
Versus 10 years ago this month, just the Top 25 vs. the Top 25: +36%
4th Quarter 2011: $19 million, -9% vs. 2010
2011 Year-end: $70.06 million, -8% vs. 2010
 
ALL TRADE PAPERBACK  SALES
December 2011 versus one year ago this month: -16.2%
2010 Year-End: -5.01%

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TOP 300 COMICS + TOP 300 TRADE PAPERBACK DOLLAR SALES
December 2011: $27.3 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: +2%
Versus 5 years ago this month, counting just the Top 100 TPBs: -2%
Versus 10 years ago this month, counting just the Top 25 TPBs: +19%
4th Quarter 2011: $89.95 million, +9% vs. 2010
2011 Year-end: $318.5 million, -1% vs. 2010

ALL COMICS AND TRADE PAPERBACK  SALES
December 2011 versus one year ago this month: -3.94%
2011 Year-End: -0.89%

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OVERALL DIAMOND SALES (including all comics, trades, and magazines)
December 2011: approximately $34.71 million
Versus 1 year ago this month: -4%
Versus 5 years ago this month: +3%
4th Quarter 2011: $116.24 million, +9% vs. 2010
2011 Year-end: $417.07 million, -1% vs. 2010

Those quarterly change figures are notable: comics units and dollars were up double digits in the fourth quarter, and total revenues nearly were.

Updates have been made to the Yearly Comics Sales tables, so you can see the numbers from the last decade with 2011 included now. Note that the total for the largest category, which includes newsstand and bookstore sales, is speculative; we won't know until more Bookscan reports surface how much that market was impacted by the closure of Borders.

Diamond has more end-of-year data to release, but the question always is whether the Dead Quarter will steal energy from the market, as it often does. It may not be very easy to tell for sure, because last January was anomalously low because of Diamond's recalibration of its shipping dates. In the meantime, updates have been made here to the Top Sellers by Month and 300th Place Title by Month tables, bringing them up to date for the end of the year.

UPDATE: The best-sellers of the year are now online.

1 comments:

Anonymous,  January 11, 2012 at 10:04 AM  

Higher demand at lower price! Sounds like Economics 101.

I guess to be an executive at Marvel, Bank of America, Netflix, and Verizon, one must sign an oath forsaking these principles.

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