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September Comic Orders Buck Seasonal Trends

Surprising Strength in Weak Month

Published: 09/12/2001 12:00am

The initial advance orders to Diamond Comic Distributors for comics shipping in September (see 'Top 300 Comics--September') showed surprising strength this year, with an increase of around 6% vs. August (see 'Top 300 Comics -- August').   Since these orders were placed in late July, we interpret this to mean that retailers were experiencing good sales during the early summer months.  This matches what we've been hearing anecdotally from retailers all summer -- that 'comics are cool again,' and that store traffic and sales have both been strong in the comic category in particular.  September orders are not only up from August, they are nearly the same (within 2%) of July, typically one of the largest order months of the year.

 

With the exception of college towns, September in pop culture stores is typically a pretty dead month, with sales and traffic substantially below the summer months.  Although the back to school season is the second largest shopping season in retail sales in general, in pop culture stores it has served as a break between movie- and other entertainment-driven sales of the summer and the holiday season.  In fact, several major declines in the comic market over the last two decades have occurred in September, as consumers turned to new things and abandoned old past-times. 

 

Strength was concentrated in the top of the list, with the rate of change for the top 10 and the top 100 titles both better than the rate for the top 300.  Dollars for both the top 10 titles and the top 100 titles were up over 7% compared to August, as compared to the 6% rate over-all.  Only one of the top ten titles -- JLA -- declined; the rest all increased. 

 

As usual, Marvel dominated the top of the list, with nine of the top ten titles and 21 of the top 25.  Image had a big win with G.I. Joe #1, which came in at #13.  Image has also recently announced that it has bumped up the over-print on G.I. Joe #1 to one third over the initial orders and will increase that if necessary. 

 

This points out once again the difference between our numbers and those reported by some other sources.  Our numbers are the initial orders from Diamond U.S.; they do not include advance reorders or reorders.  For example, Marvel's told us that their advance reorders (placed between the initial advance orders seen here and ship date) are typically running about 6% of sales.  We do it this way because Diamond's indexes are based on these initial orders and this is the only way to get accurate numbers.  Note the explanations below. 

 

The estimated North American advance orders to Diamond for the top 25 comic titles for September are as follow:

 

125,952  Origin #1

118,542  New X-Men #118

112,744  Uncanny X-men #398

  99,862  Ultimate X-Men #10

  89,825  X-treme X-Men #5

  83,559  Amazing Spider-Man #35

  80,054  Green Arrow #8

  79,891  Ultimate Spider-Man #13

  70,909  Wolverine #168

  68,996  JLA #58

  68,694  X-treme X-Men Savage Land #1

  67,465  Punisher #4

  62,375  GI Joe #1

  60,722  Avengers #46

  59,448  Daredevil Yellow #4

  58,849  Elektra #3

  52,681  Ultimate Marvel Team Up #8

  52,315  Cyclops #2

  52,282  Fury #1

  52,079  Peter Parker #35

  51,777  X-Force #120

  51,537  Daredevil #25

  51,484  Daredevil #24

  51,162  Just Imagine Stan Lee...Superman

  51,122  Fantastic Four #47

 

Our analysis is based on a combination of the information Diamond releases in Diamond Dialogue and actual order numbers provided to ICv2 from publisher sources.  By plugging in the circulation numbers we know and using the Diamond order index, all of the circulation numbers for comics ordered through Diamond can be interpolated.  Since Diamond calculates its indexes based on initial advance orders from its US location only, we use publisher numbers for the same kind of orders to do our calculations.  This produces very accurate estimates of the initial orders for North American shops.  It is not an estimate of the total sales by publishers. 

 

Here are the limitations to our analysis: 

Marvel, DC, Dark Horse and Image distribute 100% of their comic store orders through Diamond.  Some other publishers distribute directly to stores or through other distributors and as a result this analysis may underestimate their sales. 

 

Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, and Image distribute some of their titles through channels other than comic specialty stores, e.g., newsstands and bookstores.  These quantity estimates do not reflect distribution through those channels. 

 

The quantities above do not include advance reorders, late orders, or reorders.

 

Most of the titles on this chart are also distributed to Europe by Diamond UK, which can account for significant sales for the publisher, ranging from 3-20% of the US numbers.   Sales by Diamond UK are not included in the numbers above.

 

Even given the above, however, it is probably safe to say that these quantities reflect 80% or more of the total North American sales by the publisher on most periodical comics.  

 

One other factor to consider is that sales through Diamond and other comic distributors are non-returnable to retailers.  That means that there is a considerable unknown percentage of books unsold at the retailer level.  If that percentage is 10-20% of sales (a reasonable assumption), the estimates above may be quite close to actual sales of new releases to consumers.  
 
 
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