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Robert Boyd on Alan Doane on the Scarcity of Small Town Shops
posted August 23, 2005

Robert Boyd
Via The Internet

Nat Gertler made the point pretty well, but I want to add that as a long time observer of the sales numbers of manga and comics, I believe that Marvel and DC are still ruling the roost. Comparing the sales of, say, Fruits Baskets to Batman is kind of an apples and oranges comparison, but even when you take dollar sales into account, I think Marvel and DC outperform Viz and Tokyopop. Now where there hasn't been any serious analysis (in public at least) is on margin. Marvel may generate more publishing revenue than Tokyopop (which I believe is true), but given COGS and operating expenses, which division is more profitable? (Both in terms of net profit and in terms of net profit margin.) I suspect for a number of reasons that Tokyopop and Viz have higher net profit margins (the ratio of net profit to revenue) for their publishing units than Marvel or DC.

Another point ADD made was about comic stores' inability to sell manga, specifically his local store that he was otherwise quite laudatory of. This is something that store owners discuss amongst themselves a lot. ADD's theory -- if I have it right, and please correct me if I'm misrepresenting you -- is that comic store owners and managers, because they don't really get manga and don't think of them as real comics, fail to sell them well.

First of all, there must be some truth to this. It would be crazy to assume that every comic store in America has tried its best to understand and sell manga. Obviously not true.

But what's happening now is more complex and troubling. Stores that have been long-time manga sellers, even before the Sailor Moon/Dragonball/Pokemon-fueled expansion of the market for manga that happened starting in 1999, are now finding their manga sales dropping. Which seems crazy, given that we know the total sales of manga are increasing and have done so every year for the past six years at a high rate.

My theory is that the merchandising of manga at mall stores like Waldenbooks and Suncoast and big box stores like B&N and Borders has been so successful that it is drawing away customers. The ironic part is that the stores that suffer the most aren't the "bad" stores that barely carried manga at all or badly merchandised it, but the "good" stores that have nice, well-stocked manga sections and make an effort to sell it.

The unfortunate thing is that I see this as further separating manga and all other types of comics in the retail space--that is, among consumers and among retailers.