Diamond Data: Diamond Retailer Summit, 2011

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[I apologize if this is a bit late.  I can only post on the weekends, and last weekend I was immersed in C2E2 in Chicago.]

On Thursday, March 17, Diamond hosted their “Dialogue with Diamond” panel as part of the Diamond Retailer Summit.  Roger Fletcher, Diamond VP-Sales & Marketing, and Bill Schanes, VP-Purchasing, fielded questions and feedback from retailers.

Before taking questions from retailers, some data from 2010 was presented.

Tuesday Shipping

Roughly 70% (1700 of 2400) stores participate in the new early shipping program.  Stores agree to receive comics a day early, on Tuesday, and not sell them until Wednesday, New Comic Book Day.  To judge compliance, Diamond charges a fee for the program which funds a “secret shopper” program.

Of 1300 visits since implementation in January, only 22 violations were discovered.  In addition to testing retailers on selling comics before the Wednesday release date, the shoppers also notate various other criteria, such as customer service and store appearance.

Free Comic Book Day

  • 1800 stores are participating
  • There will be a mobile app as well as Facebook and Twitter access
  • 2.7 Million copies of FCBD comics have been ordered.  (1500 comics per store!)

Comic Shop Locator

  • 1.8 million visits since 1996
  • 20,000 visitors per month
  • Retailers were reminded to update their store profiles.
  • CSL has social media tags, as well as Diamond icons to designate those stores which are kid and librarian friendly.

Sales

The following is data from 2010, and only refers to what Diamond Comics ships to stores.

  • -3.59%   Comic Books
  • +0.8%  Graphic Novels
  • -23.6%  Toys
  • -20.3%  Magazines  (attributed to some publishers no longer publishing)
  • +8.2%  Prose Books
  • +40.8%  Games (Magic, Hero Clix, board games)
  • +38.4%  Apparel  (Did you know Diamond has exclusive t-shirt designs?)
  • +51%  Novelties
  • +6.6%  Diamond publications
  • -18.6%  Collectible cards  (Attributed to some exclusive contracts)
  • -4%  Supplies
  • -30.5%  Video (downturn attributed to piracy, downloads, and fewer companies producing titles.  Also, Diamond’s margins cannot match those offered, at retail prices, of WalMart)
  • -19.2%  Posters and prints  (Hard to merchandise)
  • -3.9%  Overall
  • -2.6% Customers

For the first two months of 2011, Diamond reports:

  • -4%  Comics
  • +9%  Graphic Novels
  • +79%  Toys
  • +17%  Games
  • -7%  Books
  • +20%  Apparel

Diamond also reviewed selections from Diamond Select Toys, which includes Marvel Select, Ghostbusters, and Universal Monster licenses.

Retailer questions and discussion were rather civil compared to those of years past.

Comments

  1. Interesting data from Diamond. Comic sales fell over 3.5%, and customers fell by almost 3% – I imagine the two are related. It is interesting to see board games and non-video games make a comic back, likely due to the recession. A $25-35 board game the whole family can play for years seems to be better value for some than a $40-$85 game only the kids will play. DVD sales have fallen for years. That 4% drop for comics as of March 2011 is distressing, as that is greater than all of 2010. Hopefully, FLASHPOINT and FEAR ITSELF sell as well as the big two hope. Graphic novels are seeing gains, which seems to suggest that costumers want more value for their buck. $3.99 is really about the most anyone will pay for a 22 page big two comic, and as sales have slid in hefty ways since Marvel started doing so, one could argue many people aren’t even paying that. Unless the big two can accept sales for $2.99, they will have to sell fewer comics (which may not be so bad) or sell comics less often that have more pages. Such as, instead of selling UNCANNY X-MEN once a month, selling it once a quarter but having 88 pages of content. This format, ironically, would not be too different from many novels or manga, and might help artists meet deadline with extra lead in time.

    Digital sales alone won’t save the market, as they’re in their infancy and the big two are doing everything possible to hobble it, because they are too invested in the current system. Smaller companies with less to lose have embraced it. I imagine the Big Two hope to hang on until the economy improves, but how long that may take depends on who you ask. For some, the recession is over; for others, it didn’t effect them. For everyone else, it feels like we may lose 5-10 years to this thing.

  2. Scan the ICV2 monthly data.

    DC has been producing “80-page giant” issues, such as “Finals”. These are oversized comics, sort of a mass-market graphic novel (no ISBN, no stiff cover, lower paper quality). But is the price point a turn-off? I remember the price complaints over John Byrne’s 2112 back in the 1980s.

    But then, Marvel’s original graphic novel of Halo sold amazingly well in hardcover. And both DC and Marvel had successful graphic album lines in the mid-1980s, when the bookstore market was a frontier. Of course, they knew that the contents had to be top-notch to sell at a premium, and they were, for a time.

    Another gambit… collecting the issues into graphic novels, and charging more for the collection than the individual issues cost. Myself, I compare graphic novels to art books. The production costs are similar.

  3. THANK YOU for posting this, Torsten. I had only a blurry picture of the year end stats.

  4. Justin Meadows says:

    Can someone catch me up on what may be, to everyone else, an obvious point: why the early shipping day? What’s the advantage to retailers that motivates them to pay an extra fee? The chance to sleep in until your typical store’s 11am Wednesday open time, knowing your subscription folders are all nicely filed already? I like not getting up at 8, but I can’t see paying Diamond for the privilege.

  5. If your store is located at the end of the UPS route you might not get your comics in until about 4 or 5 some days. And then it may take up to an hour to process everything.

    Not very good for new comics days, especially when some places get a lot of lunch-time business.

  6. MattDamonDemon says:

    If sales are so good, why’d I drop Red Robin?

  7. @Justin -
    As a retailer, I can tell you, the money made by having the books a day early is worth much more than $4. Time to properly sort, inventory, and set up the store before the books go on sale is a huge help both in preparedness for the sales day and in reducing stress.

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