Saturday, July 11, 2009
Retailers encouraged to stock comics
Last week's issue of Retail Newsagent, a magazine for the newstrade, ran a feature on the current state of British comics and found the market still had potential.
However, a sad sign of the times was that at no time did the article mention the word "comics", preferring to refer to them all as "children's magazines". Even The Beano wasn't exempt, with the 71 year old title being called a "children's publication".
The two page feature, by David Harris, covered how the titles were faring in the recession, with quotes from various publishers to say how resilient children's magazines are. Apparently there are an incredible 156 children's titles currently being published, with overall sales of 64.1 million. Whilst most of those titles do not feature comic strips (so cannot be classed as comics) it's obvious they are still considered by the trade to be of a similar ilk to comics, - all falling under the "children's publications" banner. The emphasis of the article was mainly on the younger end of the market; an area which retailers seem to consider to be the main arena for comics today.
Jaynie Bye, joint Managing Director of BBC children's titles, responded to retailer's "bugbear" over bulky cover mounts, explaining how they boost sales and that buyers now expect them. "We have now reached the stage where if there is not a covermount, parents think it must have fallen off."
The recent development of occasional higher cover prices for certain issues was also addressed (such as Spectacular Spider-Man and The Beano increasing their prices by 50p or more on some weeks). James Willmott, head of group advertising at Titan said "Retailers like this because if there is a larger margin to be made they want a piece of it."
Recent new laws restricting certain advertising in children's magazines seems to have benefited the titles. Alison David, commercial director of Egmont, relates in the article how, because the titles' incomes are now more dependent on cover price than advertising, any advertisers pulling out due to the recession shouldn't damage the magazines' profits too much.
The article concludes that "the magazine market might be struggling, but children's is definitely one of its strongest sectors" and that "this is one well-established sector upon which retailers can rely".
It's great that an influential trade magazine such as Retail Newsagent is giving out such a positive message about kids' comics, even though the message is solely about profit not content. Unfortunately it seems that bulky cover mounts, overcrowded shelves, a "younger" tone, tv-centric titles and price hikes are here to stay for the foreseeable future.
A few interesting revelations came to light in the advertising features surrounding the article; looks like Panini are launching a new GI Joe comic later this month, and are soon to revamp The Mighty World of Marvel, relaunching from issue one.
The biggest news however was mentioned in a sidebar to the main article: this September The Beano is being "restyled" to reflect the upcoming new Dennis and Gnasher tv series on CBeebies. No further details of the relaunch were forthcoming, except that it would feature "a series of free gifts" to coincide with the tv show. Watch this space for further developments.