Monday, August 25, 2008

Brand New Day - the day after

Remember back when Marvel decided it would be a good idea for Peter Parker to make a deal with the devil, well Mephisto - but he's close.

It was obvious when they announced a 3-issue per month schedule while cutting out the two other Spider-Man comics, that Marvel wanted to ditch the slow movers and replace them with a comic they hoped would do better, thereby increasing their total sales numbers.

Did it work? According to Rich Johnston from Lying in the Gutters, barely. He writes in today's column (spelling errors corrected by me):

We're well into the "Brand New Day" relaunch of Marvel's Spider-Man property. So... how are sales doing? Have Marvel fans abandoned the series as many threatened, was it all hot air, has the series found new readers?

We have only certain sales figures to go on, they are orders by retailers, not sales to customers, they don't include sales outside of North America and they are often inaccurate. However, they have the benefit of being consistently inaccurate, enabling us to draw conclusion about certain trends And with the current FOC system of ordering, the order dates are much closer to sales dates, which over time makes it a greater barometer of customer demand. So. Let's crunch numbers.

The first issue of Brand New Day, "Amazing Spider-Man" #546 had reported North American orders of 127,958. Very impressive, and the media coverage probably helped sales. As a three-times-a-month book, it was worth knowing the retailers ordered 101,213 of the second issue and 97,959 of the third. They expected a drop off. Issue 4 gets a bump of 101,112 with the new rotating creative team but two issues later, it's back down to 88,084. Which was where the book was pre-relaunch.

And so the sales slide. Month after month, sales drop. occasionally leaping for a new creative team before plunging back down. July's figures see the series in the high 60K figures, half of where the relaunch started from, a significant drop from the majority of JMS' run, and back down around the levels achieved towards the end of the John Byrne/Howard Mackie run which received such derision when the Quesada/Jemas tag team rose to prominence at Marvel.

However, because the other less-well-performing titles of "Spectacular Spider-Man" and "Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man" were canceled, to be replaced by the increased three-a-month schedule for the better selling "Amazing Spider-Man", overall sales of the three Spidey books a month are up. Just.

What has happened is that "Amazing Spider-Man" has lost 30-50,000 readers since the relaunch. However those readers now buy all three Spider-Man titles a month instead of the one or two they used to pick up.

So, Amazing seems to have taken a significant hit in sales numbers. However, the numbers are increased from the sales of Spectacular and Friendly. But, as he does later point out, if someone drops Amazing they are dropping three issues - decreasing numbers more significantly than if they were dropping a regular monthly. In addition, as a retailer it is a lot more difficult to get a customer to commit to buying three issues per month than just one. And, in those cases where we pull for clients who one day decide just to stop buying comics without notice - loosing the customer that buys Amazing hits the bottom line more substantially, and often results in more books sitting in a pull bin waiting to be picked up. While the drop of one subscriber is pretty insignificant to Marvel, it can have a more substantial impact on the small comic book retailer.

How has Neptune done with Amazing sales since? Well unfortunately the POS/inventory program we've been using since it started still does not work properly, so we do not have any sales numbers for it. While I'd love to share those details I just don't have them to share. But thankfully we're planning to switch to a new program soon (Diamond's Comic Suite) that should work more accurately and hopefully keep track of inventory sales.


Von Allan said...

Wait. If your POS system is unreliable, you are using Cycle Sheets to track sales that way, right? 'Cuz if not - yikes!

I'm also assuming you discount on customer pulls. I'm not sure if you've considered stopping this, but when you have reliable (and accessible) POS data it might be something to chew over. It would give you a better margin and make these type of hiccups with sales patterns a bit easier to take - as long as you aren't over-ordering to a very high degree.

Ben from Arizona said...

My problem with Spider Man goes back to the One More Day debacle.

I don't see Peter Parker making a deal with the devil. I just don't. I mean the devil (Mephisto) has enough foresight to be able to show Peter and MJ who their daughter would have been had they not made the deal. He surely would have had enough insight to show up after Uncle Ben was shot and make a deal with the erstwhile Spider Man back in the day.

I called bull**** on Quesada for this the minute I finished the issue.

That's, I guess, my reason for not subscribing to Spidey. Just left a bad taste in my mouth.

That being said, I promise to buy more titles of other books from Neptune to offset the lack of Spidey books I'm not buying :-)

Go Neptune. Fr shzzl.

Lisa said...

Von - We had a working POS system in a DOS version since we opened. the creator assured us the Windows version was good to go, at LONG last. So in January we decided to upgrade. Turns out it wasn't so ready after all. We've been plagued with bug after bug. We can see what we ordered and we can do our pulls. We can see when it's time to cycle a title. However the sales numbers are never right. So at order time we have to hand count to see what we've got. It is a real pain! That's why we've said the heck with it and are switching to the Comic Suite program - we hope it will be less buggy.

We don't do pull discounts. Don't believe in them. We have some frequent shopper deals and sales events a few times a year, but we don't discount new comics at those sales either.

Lisa said...

Ben - I still say this Spidey is a Skrull and this was all crazy Skrull Spider-Man's actions. Once they discover that, the deal's off - made with the wrong person.

Von Allan said...

Lisa: oh, that's bad. A buggy unreliable POS is terrible, maybe worse than not having one at all. Very sorry to hear that. I know Brian Hibbs seems to be happy with Moby, but it's really just a matter of finding a reliable system that does what you want it to do very efficiently.

My old bookstore still used a DOS based POS and it's dated by reliable. And you can pull out a lot of data into Excel or Access and do some math. That's my favourite part - a flexible POS that gives me the ability to sort data the way I want to. And if it can't, then it has to be able to let me import the data into another program. Book Manager, the POS system we use, does that. Nicely.

Discounts: Yay! Good on you! :)

Now, a question: do you guys order from Tony Shenton at all? Or are you pretty much Diamond only?

Lisa said...

We use Diamond and Baker & Taylor for some books. We've not dealt with Tony Shenton at this point. We've really only heard of him briefly. Is it worth checking out? I know he deals in indie books - are they titles Diamond won't sell?

Von Allan said...

Well, I was actually asking about Tony on a personal level so I'm a little biased. See, I've got this wee little book out and I'm not planning on approaching Diamond with it (for a variety of sundry reasons). Which is no slight against Diamond, I hasten to add - I just don't think it will be a big seller for most DM stores. I've been chatting with Tony about it, though, and he's willing to see what he can do with it. I just need to work out a few pesky details first (it's $13.95 US and the terms will most likely be 50% off to retailers with free freight).

Tony does represent a number of very interesting small publishers that, depending on your product mix, might be worth your while. It really depends on what you can sell. If you have customers that are looking for titles outside of the big 4 brokered companies, than dropping Tony a line might not be a bad idea. He does represent certain publishers that are quite neat (Drawn and Quarterly, for example). Some of these are publishers you can get from Diamond; his terms are often a bit better, but you'd want to watch your ordering plateaus for the Diamond titles, of course. Some are not distributed by Diamond at all. And he's been doing this for awhile - he sells into stores like Jim Hanley's Universe regularly and knows his stuff. Which means he could help guide you if you wanted to experiment.

If, on the other hand, you don't have that type of customer base, then I wouldn't worry about it. Not everyone can sell alternative/indy titles that well even if they're well-promoted. As I may have mentioned before, the store I ran was very dynamic and I could sell quite quirky things. Our sister store (since closed) was much more mainstream. Tom Clancy, Danielle Steel, John Grisham, romance novels and business and reference books was where it's at. And it was only a 15 minute walk away. Quirky stuff wouldn't move at all. No harm and no foul - the customer base was just quite different.

And no harm and no foul if you aren't keen on my bookie, either. This is probably a better email topic, but the quick version is that I wanted to get something out that would enable me to test out a few things before I release "the road to god knows..." This was a very good fit. :)