Diamond Comic Distributors has released the results of its retailer survey on Free Comic Book Day 2003, and it confirms what anecdotal reports have said -- comic retailers promoted the 2003 FCBD more aggressively than the year before, had better traffic and sales on the Day than in 2002, and were able to keep a significant percentage of new customers coming back. 


Around 2/3 of responding retailers told Diamond that they promoted FCBD 2003 more aggressively than they promoted the 2002 event.  In-store signage, bag stuffers, and public relations were the most common types of promotion.  One of the most effective methods used was cross-promoting with local theaters, which was cited as the most effective tool used by 43% of the retailers that did so.


The results on the Day itself were good.  About 52% of respondents reported better traffic than last year, and 56% reported better sales.  Only 14% had worse traffic, and 18% worse sales than on FCBD 2002. 


And the traffic had a great composition.  On average, retailers reported that over 30% of the customers on FCBD were new, and nearly 15% were returning (hadn't been in a comic store for a long time).  The mean traffic was 332 customers per location, with a range of 20 to 4,500 customers per location. 


Trying to develop the number of consumers reached from those numbers is risky for a number of reasons.  Diamond didn't report the number of respondents, so it's impossible to know how likely it is that the sample was representative of the total store population.  It could also be that the self-selected sample skewed the results in an unknown direction.  And some (probably small) percentage of consumers went to more than one store.  We also don't know whether the sample of stores that responded to the survey are representative only of the stores that participated fully enough to be listed on the FCBD Website (over 2000 locations) or of stores that ordered at least some FCBD comics (nearly 3000).  Using the smaller number of stores and multiplying by the average customer count produces an estimate of 650-700,000 people that visited comic stores participating in Free Comic Book Day.  That number may approach 1 million if the higher end of all estimates as used.  Either way, the number of consumers reached by this promotion is a major success by any standards for an industry that struggles to sell more than 100,000 copies of its best-selling titles. 


The best news is that the new and returning customers came back, with over 78% of responding retailers reporting that they gained customers since the event, and 31% reporting that sales increased significantly.  The largest increase reported was a 45% jump!


Here's to a bigger and better FCBD in 2004!