Has manga reached a turnaround point in comic stores?  For several years, comic store manga sales have been declining, subject to the same trends that were depressing manga sales over-all (reduced TV exposure, for example), and also affected by some trends specific to the channel, among them the fierce competition from book chains and Amazon.  Now at least one indicator appears to have changed direction.

We took a look at the number of manga titles in the top 50 graphic novels in comic stores in January and February over the past ten years, and found an upward trend in 2012 for the first time in seven years.  The move, while modest and at this point just a one year trend in an imperfect measure, is a positive sign that may point to an opportunity created by events in 2011.

The landscape for manga in the U.S. has changed dramatically in the last year.  A little over a year ago, Borders, the nation’s second largest book chain, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and began immediately closing over 200 of the 642 stores it operated at the time of the filing (see "Borders Files Chapter 11").  The remaining 400 stores were shut down during the company’s final liquidation beginning last July (see "Bye Bye Borders").

At one time, Borders had over a 40% market share of U.S. manga sales, ahead of Barnes & Noble, which was over twice its size.  And Borders probably still had close to a 20% share of U.S. manga sales at the time it shut down (see "Borders Woes a Blow to Manga").

So where have those sales gone?  Certainly Amazon and Barnes & Noble picked up significant percentages of what was lost through Borders.  But comic stores also stood to benefit, especially for stores that had significant manga sections, in cities where Borders stores were closing.  And some manga fans may still be looking for a place to buy manga, or splitting purchases between several (for them) imperfect solutions.

The indicator we looked at is for a short period, and measures the relative success of competition from non-manga titles as much as it measures the success of manga.  So it will be interesting to see whether the trend persists and whether comic stores, some of whom had cut their manga sections back before the Borders bankruptcy, are ready for another bite of the manga apple.

ICv2 is requesting that comic retailers that are having success with selling manga to send share their experience with other retailers (see "Retailers--Share Your Manga Experience!").