The latest Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) figures have been released for magazines and comics covering June to December 2013 and once again they make for interesting reading.
John Freeman goes into it in more depth on his excellent Down The Tubes website (http://downthetubes.net/?p=14099) but there's a few things I'd like to mention here.
Egmont's boys mag Toxic shows an increase from 47,000 to 53,000 since the same period in 2012. Its new rival Mega, has sales around 30,768. Doctor Who Adventures has dipped to an average of 28,443, and Ultimate Spider-Man is fairly stable at around 28,709 sales an issue.
Girl's mag Barbie had an average fall from 50,000 to 42,907 in twelve months, with Disney Princess falling from 62,506 to 51,649. Egmont's Hello Kitty has risen from 31,000 to 37,020, and Monster High is up from 32,000 in 2012 to 35,579 in 2013.
For the nursery market, Redan's Fun To Learn - Peppa Pig had an impressive average of 86,878 in 2012 and rose to an even more impressive 98,922 in 2013, making it currently the best selling children's title on the stands.
In the diminished children's traditional comic market, the new Dennis the Menace Megazine has average sales of 20,502, whilst The Beano has a slight drop from 36,000 in 2012 to 32,000 in 2013.
All things considered, I still think The Beano is holding its own. I know a few critics were predicting "Dandy style" drops in circulation due to The Beano's revamp bringing in several of The Dandy's artists, but that clearly hasn't happened. So much for the theory that it was mainly the contributors who caused The Dandy's fall. Yes, there is a sales decline, but it's comparable to that of other titles and is not as drastic as some had feared. Even more importantly, sales of comics have been falling since the 1950s, mostly due to each generation having an increasing number of leisure distractions.
Here's something else to consider: The Beano is the only weekly comic listed in the circulation figures. (2000AD and The Phoenix do not submit their data.) Considering that Ultimate Spider-Man sells 28,709 a month, and Toxic sells 53,000 every three weeks, I think the fact that The Beano only has seven days to shift each issue and still manages to sell 32,000 every week is an impressive accomplishment.
Another factor to remember is packaging. All of the other children's titles listed come either bagged with several gifts, or have cover mounts every issue. Throughout most of 2013 The Beano carried no gifts. It relied solely on its content and being a comic. It's interesting that The Beano's highest selling issue for 2013 was the Christmas issue, (45,896) which was bagged with gifts, and was on display for a whole month. Which kind of backs up what I'm saying. (The Beano's other handful of issues that had noticeable sales increases were the ones that carried cover mounts last summer.)
Finally, the other factor, in my opinion, is how comics are displayed. Throughout 2013 my local WH Smith (and branches in some other towns/cities) had a curiously OCD method of shelving all the comics alphabetically in a narrow, high, shelving unit. This meant that The Beano, Dennis the Menace Megazine, and Doctor Who Adventures were on top of a 6ft high shelf, out of visibility of their target audience, whilst Toxic, Monster High, Peppa Pig and others were right at a child's eyeline. Admittedly, many retailers do have all their comics within a child's reach, so this may not be a major factor but it's worth considering.
Interestingly, the issue of The Beano that had a noticeable dip in sales was the one featuring 'guest editor' Richard Hammond, (down to 28,729) despite being plugged in newspapers and on the TV news. My guess is that young kids simply don't watch Top Gear. (Heck, I'm 54 and I don't watch it either.)
In case anyone thinks I'm bigging up The Beano because I freelance for it, well, I also freelance for Toxic. I'm not pretending that everything is rosy. It's an ongoing concern for readers and contributors that comic sales are gradually falling every year, and I'm well aware that we'll never again see the sales figures of millions that some had in the 1950s or the hundred thousands of the 1960s. I'm just saying that things aren't apocalyptic just yet.