After a trough in the presence of manga in mass merchants, Viz is once again expanding the number of its titles available in Walmart, and participating in a floor display program in Best Buy.
The Walmart program is through one of the company’s book wholesalers in just over 2000 stores, or a little under half the chain’s total. The program placed newer titles Tokyo Ghoul, Yokai Watch, and One Punch Man in the book department at Walmart prior to holiday, and “sales have been splendid,” according to Viz Senior Director – Sales and Marketing Kevin Hamric. The titles have streaming anime tie-ins supporting sales.
While Walmart hadn’t eliminated manga or other graphic novels, the chain had reduced the size of its book departments and eliminated the dedicated section for manga and other graphic novels at the same time the manga category was contracting (in the late 00s), Hamric told us. Viz’s Naruto, most Pokemon volumes, and the occasional Bleach, Yu-Gi-Oh!, or other strong title continued to be sold in the chain, along with other perennials (from other publishers) such as The Walking Dead and Attack on Titan.
With strong sales on the recently expanded selection, Hamric is now hoping for more. “[A]t this point we’re just talking to them and their book distributors about the possibility of getting a section into the stores again, or at least an increased presence in our category,” he said.
Best Buy had a manga section at one point and also carried other graphic novels from time to time, but recently has not had any books in the stores. The chain has tried a some books through sales promotions in the past year, and is now going to take the next step with a multi-publisher, multi-category corrugated floor display in all 687 stores. With Viz and Bandai Namco the two major suppliers involved, the display will offer manga, including Naruto and Assassination Classroom, along with games and DVDs/Blu-rays.
Hamric sees a common trend in the moves by the two chains. “I do [see a trend],” he said, “I think because of the increase of sales and the publicity. People are noticing the pop culture increase, nationwide, and noticing that we’ve got some really hot titles and product. I think buyers are doing what buyers are supposed to do and paying attention and reading the industry. Hopefully [the new placements] will all work, and we’ll get more product in.”