Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

September 6, 2011

Why It Was Important For DC To Keep Prices Down

I ran across this comment from DC Executive Vice President John Rood late yesterday about his disappointment that DC reducing its prices this year to $2.99 across its line (with significant exceptions) has failed to lead to an increase in sales. I've seen similar comments from other DC people. I hold that anyone that expected a trackable boost in sales on a specific comic book or specific comic books through price reduction was always whistling up a tree, and I'm surprised enough to see people that should know better say so in public I wonder if they're doing so for effect rather than they're really dismayed by the lack of results.

Recent comics history is filled with price point maneuvers in the Direct Market that conventional wisdom might think would lead to a boost or an increased proclivity to try certain books, but hasn't: everything from the occasional mainstream round of 99-cent or similarly reduced-price books to alternative pamphlet pricing generally. I think it's pretty clear that the customer base that buys comics on a regular basis has shown time after time they don't routinely make price comparisons on a one-on-one basis.

I maintain that the reason as many publishers as possible keeping their pamphlet prices reasonably low remains important is that it diminishes the number of people driven from weekly comics buying when the value of their comfortable purchase point -- $10 to $20 to $100 to whatever -- becomes reduced and they experience this as disappointment over a length of time. In other words, higher prices don't drive people to lower-priced comics, they drive people out of the habit of buying serial comics. Comic book buyers tend to be habitual buyers, many of whom will buy series for years after they've stopped enjoying the individual comics they purchase, mostly because of various issues of purchasing momentum. They don't burn easily; they simmer. This is the main reason why raising prices can be dangerous: it's extremely difficult to track the harm it may do.
posted 12:10 pm PST | Permalink

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