British Comic Sales Figures: Winners and Losers (January – June 2016): TOXIC beats off sales woes

Egmont's TOXIC magazine has fought off the Sales Gremlin once agains. Art from "Team Toxic" by Lew Stringer
Egmont’s TOXIC magazine has fought off the Sales Gremlin once agains. Art from “Team Toxic” by Lew Stringer

While humour and political comment magazine Private Eye is celebrating another modest increase to its circulation this week, some British comic publishers may be scratching their heads after a mixed bag of sales results were announced – but there’s still plenty of cheer, for some, in them too.

The Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) sales figures for titles registered with the organisation have just been published and some titles, such as Doctor Who Adventures (that title hit, I suspect, by a later evening screening of the show and being more “off air” than “on” in terms of new episodes), have seen marked decline in sales for the reporting period (January – June 2016). But there’s still cheer for others, including Egmont’s TOXIC, which has seen a welcome rise, to the delight of editor Simon Ward.

We’ve updated our spreadsheet of sales figures we think will most interest downthetubes readers here. These figures, which we’ve been running since 2006, combine print circulation with digital edition sales.

Do note that not every comic or children’s magazine is ABC listed, so as usual there are, sadly, no figures for 2000ADCommando or The Phoenix in the public domain. Some titles, such as The Beano and VIZ, also report only annually, so there’s no update on how they’re faring from our last report on comic sales back in February.

Comics in the Top 200 UK Consumer Titles - January - June 2016The Press Gazette notes that overall, UK consumer magazines lost circulation by an average of 5.3 per cent in the first six months of this year. Most of the 174 titles audited by ABC on a six-monthly basis lost circulation year on year (figures include digital editions), but some, such as Private Eye, bucked the trend with its circulation up by 0.1% to pass the 230,000 mark and hit a 30-year high.

Sparkle World Issue 214 - CoverPre-school and young children’s magazines are doing well, with publisher Redan continuing to hold their own, enjoying a huge increase in sales of their girls title Sparkle World (up 20.37 per cent period-on-period to 56,265) and a rise in sales for Fun to Learn – Friends. Both their Peppa Pig titles are maintaining solid sales.

“I’d venture that the reason most preschool comics have healthy sales is partly because most newsagents carry them,” suggests comic expert Lew Stringer, “whereas comics such as The Beano and 2000AD seem harder to find. I do wonder why shops favour pre-school titles over everything else.”

Egmont‘s LEGO titles continue to shine with their Disney Frozen title is still the best-selling  young children’s title in the UK – and Disney Princess magazine has also enjoyed a period of uplift.

LEGO Star Wars Magazine, which launched in July 2015, achieved an ABC figure of 80,012, up almost 38 per cent period-on-period.

“We are thrilled with the success of LEGO Star Wars Magazine,” said Jo Doubtfire, publisher of Egmont’s Disney magazines portfolio.

“The title combines two of the most popular children’s brands and young fans delight in interacting with their favourite characters through the stories and activities in the pages of the magazine. Plus, our highly collectable cover mount programme really supports this.”

“I’m delighted with Egmont’s performance in this round of ABCs,” commented Cally Poplak, MD of Egmont Publishing UK.

“The children’s sector of the UK magazine market continues to thrive and we know from our research that parents value the physicality and the package printed magazines offer – they appreciate how they offer time away from screens, and enable them to spend time doing activities and reading with their children.”

Immediate Media are still performing strongly in this sector, too, with a good launch for their Clangers title, although some other publications, such as MEGA, have not fared as well.

Sales success for Doctor Who Magazine Issue 500
Sales success for Doctor Who Magazine Issue 500

There was success this period, too, for Panini’s Doctor Who Magazine, which saw a huge bump in sales – by over 10,000 copies – for its celebratory Issue 500. The increase might well not only be down to it being a smashing souvenir, but an increased print run, which would have given it much more visibility in newsagents. Overall, the title held steady against the tide of declining sales in the sector.

“We always knew it would be an unusual figure on the graph, but we were delighted that it did so well,” says editor Tom Spilsbury. “It was the biggest selling issue since the end of 2013. Issue 500 aside, we were roughly level on what we’ve been selling in recent times.”

There are, of course, further storm clouds on the horizon for news stand comics, as publishers now face higher print costs post-Brexit, forcing price rises. One of the first of these in the comics field is the new volume of Panini’s The Astonishing Spider-Man, launched this week at £3.99 rather than the previously announced £3.50 cover price.

“We must apologise for the price increase”, commented editor Brady Webb in his introduction to the issue. “Due to Brexit and the tumbling value of the pound, our printing costs have risen dramatically and forced us to raise the price”.

Astonishing Spider-Man Volume 6 #1
The price of the re-launched Astonishing Spider-Man has been affected by post-Brexit print cost rises

“The comics are still excellent value for money,” Lew Stringer feels. “Each issue of the Collectors’ Editions reprints three (sometimes four) issues of Marvel’s American comics, which would cost around £10 or more if bought separately. With the Panini titles restarting with new first issues (reprinting Marvel comics from only a year or so ago), this is an ideal time for new or lapsed readers to jump on board.

As I said above, we’ve been charting British new stand comic sales for some time, and artist Kev Sutherland is one of many who feels “nostalgic” for the glory days of 2006 (pre YouTube) after seeing our chart, “when some comics (Doctor Who Adventures, for example) were selling ten times what they sell now”.

But he’s cheered, too. “After The Beano‘s plummet in 2009 (the year they stopped running my long strips and Gary Northfield’s ‘Derek The Sheep’, totally coincidentally) it’s remained reassuringly buoyant”.

Let’s hope it stays that way – we’ll find out early next year when the next ABC round up is released.

• The Audit Bureau of Circulations is the industry body for media measurement. The organisation brings the newspaper and magazine industry together to agree measurement and process Reporting Standards, a process that is constantly evolving to keep pace with industry developments.

• View our spreadsheet of ABC figures here (2006 – 2016)

Read our report on sales figures for July – December 2015

• Press Gazette: UK mag sales dropped 5.3 per cent in first half of 2016: Reader’s Digest, Heat and Glamour among biggest fallers

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative", currently working as a freelance editor for TITAN COMICS, as Creative Consultant on the new DAN DARE audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the LAKES INTERNATIONAL COMIC ART FESTIVAL and LANCASTER COMICS DAY. John has worked in British comics publishing for over 30 years, starting out at Marvel UK, where he edited a number of the Genesis 1992 books with Paul Neary. His numerous credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines, where he was Managing Editor. He also edited STRIP Magazine and worked as an editor on several audio comics for ROK Comics, including TEAM M.O.B.I.L.E. and THE BEATLES STORY. Most recently he is writing CRUCIBLE as a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and DEATH DUTY and SKOW DOGS with Dave Hailwood for the digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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