After Rocky Year
Posted by Milton Griepp on March 26, 2021 @ 3:27 pm CT
There were definitely some casualties among comic stores. Using a list of U.S. Diamond accounts as of mid-2019 and trying to verify their existence as of late 2020 and early 2021, we found close to 10% closed or invisible based on their digital footprints.
The year actually began strong, with comic sales in January and February of 2020 up over a year ago (based on Diamond year over year sell-in numbers). But then as Covid took hold in March, things went south.
Covid-related shutdowns by Diamond Comic Distributors, which closed completely for seven weeks in April and May, and by retailers in parts of the country more heavily affected by Covid, or where state or local governments imposed stricter restrictions on activity, were a huge factor. Seven weeks without new comics from Diamond represents a 14% decline on its own, and many publishers resumed publishing on a more limited basis, with title counts for periodical comics remaining below pre-Covid levels through the Fall season.
Graphic novels were a different story. Because comic stores represent a minority of graphic novel sales, and because most publishers distribute graphic novels to the book channel through companies other than Diamond (Image and Dynamite being notable exceptions), most graphic novel production continued at some level during the Diamond shutdown, and was resumed at close to normal levels during the summer.
By early Fall, comic stores had recovered their footing and publishers were upping the number of periodical releases, if not to pre-pandemic levels, and demand was there, across the board. Periodical sales were better than they were pre-Covid, retailers told us. The demand for reading material extended to graphic novels, with some noting a surprising willingness to spend money locally rather than online.
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