British Comic Sales Figures, Winners and Losers (January – June 2017): Publishers bullish, MEGA and LEGO titles on the rise

The children's magazine section of a typical mid-range WHSmith, July 2017. Because WHSmith have given over much shelf space to non-magazine items in this store the comics are cramped and many are at adult height, limiting purchase choice for younger buyers - a far cry from past decades when all comics were within easy reach in newsagents to encourage a pocket money spend.
The children’s magazine section of a typical mid-range WHSmith, July 2017. Because WHSmith have given over much shelf space to non-magazine items in this store the comics are cramped and many are at adult height, limiting purchase choice for younger buyers – a far cry from past decades when all comics were within easy reach in newsagents to encourage a pocket money spend.
The latest sales figures for comics available on the UK new stand might on first sight make for depressing reading for both publishers and readers alike (the latter fearing for the cancellation of their favourite titles). But closer inspection of the consumer magazine figures for the first half of 2017 just published by the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) does appear to indicate that unlike some other magazine sectors, the “youth market” is still one worth chasing for publishers, with several new launches this year, including Lego Special Series, which had an impressive debut.

The Press Gazette notes that overall, most UK magazines audited lost sales year on year in the first half of 2017, according to ABC. Some 163 titles are audited on a six-monthly basis (The number of titles reporting has declined from 174 last year). Private Eye‘s sales are up again, closing to a 250,000 average, but the highest-selling youth magazine is LEGO Ninjago at an average sale of 84,,063 an issue, leap frogging Peppa Pig and Disney Frozen, previous winners in the sector.

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. There’s a list of every active title aimed at the Youth Market (and some recent cancellations) at the end of this article.

We’re also very aware that many Youth titles today, a sector dominated by licensed titles, is very different to the news stand of the past and sales that were once in their millions.

(We include Private Eye for comparison – we know it’s not a comic. As many older comic readers will be happy to point out, there was a time when comics sold as many copies as this magazine – and more…)

 

UK Comic Sales in Top 200 - January - June 2017

Sadly, there have been both some casualties in a sector where competition for sales is fierce, with both Doctor Who Adventures and Thunderbirds Are Go cancelled (news stories here and here) and some titles such as Egmont’s TOXIC seeing a massive sales dip – a far cry from this time last year when sales for the magazine title, which includes a number of comics strips, was on the rise, to the delight of editor Simon Ward. Perhaps the revamped EPIC from DC Thomson and the rise in sales for Immediate Media’s MEGA  which both have a similar format, have affected the title.

EPIC‘s sales aren’t reported in this period, but DC Thomson were right to give it a revamp when its last average sales figures were reported at the 14,000 mark). Immediate Media, publishers, of MEGA, note the title is one of the fastest-growing of all consumer magazines, up 26.8% year-on-year to 38,102 readers.

Publisher Reaction

Immediate Media are clearly delighted by sales for their Youth and Children titles. Boosted by launch activity and some outstanding performances by their existing brands, the company notes its portfolio has experienced a 10.5% increase year-on-year. In addition to increased sales for MEGA, Lego Nexo Knights is up an impressive 23.9% year-on-year reporting an ABC of 63,171, while the company’s other Lego brands continue to report ABC growth. Lego Friends is up 9.7% annually, Lego Ninjago is up 7.9% on the year and Lego Special Series has an ABC debut of 57,707.

While their girls titles Girl Talk and Girl Talk Art don’t feature comic strip, they have both recorded year-on-year growth, up 4.5% and 0.5% respectively and the relaunched Top of the Pops Magazine continues to do well with its second consecutive ABC increase, up 2.5% year-on-year.

In pre-school, always a busy sector, Andy’s Amazing Adventures continues to go from strength to strength, up 23.1% period-on-period and 0.7% year-on-year.

Redan Publishing Ltd is celebrating as its best-selling Peppa Pig titles, Peppa Pig Bag-O-Fun and Fun To Learn Peppa Pig, maintain their top spots in the pre-school ABC chart. In the new figures Peppa Pig Bag-O-Fun registered its ABC as 77,037, whilst Fun To Learn Peppa Pig sold an average of 64,108 copies per issue, ranking them 1 st and 2 nd (respectively) in the official Pre-school chart.

Pointing out this is an “an increasingly competitive market”, the company’s pre-school specialist’s other titles also turned in strong performances, with compilation title Fun To Learn Friends seeing a period on period increase of 11% to 49,644 and Sparkle World retaining its place as number one multi-character title for primary girls with an ABC of 47,304.

Teen titles on the shelves of a mid-range WHSmith - August 2017. In this store, 2000AD is clearly visible - but it's last week's issue, with the current issue racked in its normal position on the rack.
Teen titles on the shelves of a mid-range WHSmith – August 2017. In this store, 2000AD is clearly visible – but it’s last week’s issue, with the current issue racked in its normal position on the rack.

Distribution and Display – A Continued Issue

We must also note, as we have previously, that the way comics are displayed on today’s news stand, both in many WHSmith high street stores and also some supermarkets, clearly indicates many titles are seen as “parent buys”, which doesn’t help potential pocket money purchases – and the cover price, thanks to polybagged gifts, is a further barrier to the kind of test buy children of past generations used to make when it came to comics.

Panini and Titan Comics "digest" titles, collecting DC and Marvel comic strips, are poorly displayed
Panini and Titan Comics “digest” titles, collecting DC and Marvel comic strips, are poorly displayed

Supermarkets regularly promote key comic titles but it's clear the promotions are aimed at parents, with the titles racked out of reach of children
Supermarkets regularly promote key comic titles but it’s clear the promotions are aimed at parents, with the titles racked out of reach of children
Comics face huge competition for shelf space, competing with all manner of other titles, meaning what’s offered has becomes more and more limited depending on the size of store, with staff facing a never-ending battle to keep shelves tidy. In some stores, however, sales can’t be helped when comics are only available on request, with staff told to put them behind the counter as a result of claimed shoplifting.

Display has not been helped by WHSmith, who some years back decided to reduce the space given over to magazines in many stores in favour of other lines – stationery, confectionary and cards. This has meant magazines are now cramped on less shelf space and have become had to find for the casual purchaser, which must be galling for publishers who have paid to ben on those shelves, especially a new launch.

• 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 – 2017)

• Press Gazette: Magazine ABCs: Full breakdown of UK magazine sales figures for first half 2017

• Lew Stringer offers his take on declining comic sales, also pointing at polybagged comics that limit discovery and browsing, and poor retail display here on his Blimey blog

Active Youth Titles – UK Market

As of August 2017

Please note not all these titles are comics – some are simply magazines aimed at the sector

Pre-School

321 Go
Andy’s Amazing Adventures
Barney
Beautiful Ballerina
Blaze
Bob The Builder
Busy Time
Cbeebies Art
Cbeebies
Cbeebies Special Gift
Charlie & Lola
Cuddles
Dino Friends
Disney Me
Disney Stars
Doc McStuffins
Early Learning Play Pack
Fairy Ballerina
Fantastic Funworld
Finding Dory
Fireman Sam
Fun To Learn Bag Of Fun
Fun To Learn Favourites
Fun To Learn Friends
Fun To Learn Peppa Pig
Fun With….
Get Busy Special
Glitter Princess Goody Bag
Go Jetters
Hey Duggee
In The Night Garden
Let’s Play
Lion Guard
Little Princess Activity
Lucky Dip
Marvel Play Time
Milkshake
Mister Maker
Mr Men Little Miss
Mr Tumble Something Special
My Favourite Fairytales
Octonauts
Okido
Party Princess
Paw Patrol
Peppa Pig Bag Of Fun
Peter Rabbit
PJ Masks
Playtime
Princess Kingdom
Read Me A Story
Rescue Bots
Showcase
Sofia The First
Roary Racing Car
Swashbuckle Magazine
Stories And Fun
Teletubbies
Tellytime Favourites
Thomas Express
Thomas And Friends
Toy Box
Wild Wheels

Recent Cancellations

Noddy
Bing
Butterfly Princess
Clangers
Twirlywoos

Girls Primary

Angel Princess
Angelina
Animal Friends
Animals And You
Barbie
Beautiful Mermaid
Best Friends
Build A Bear Workshop
Cute
Cute N Cuddly”
Cute Special
DC Super Hero Girls
Disney Frozen
Disney Presents
Disney Princess
Disney Waitrose Pack
Dream Princess
Elena Of Avalor
Fairies
Fairy Princess
Favourite Friends
Girl
Girl Talk
Girl Talk Art
Glitter Fairies
Hello Kitty Magazine
Jacqueline Wilson
Katie
Lego Friends
Little Princess Activity
Littlest Pet Shop
Love From
Magical Unicorns
Mixit
Moana
My Beautiful Princess
My Favourite Princess Stories
My Little Pony Bumper Pack
My Little Pony”
My Magical World
My Princess And Pony Magazine
Num Noms
Pets 2 Collect
Pink
Pink Bumper Special
Pony Animagic Waitrose Bumper
Pony Friends
Pony World
Pretty Mermaid
Princess Colouring Time
Princess Friends
Princess Secrets
Princess World
Princess World Special
Rainbow Princess Colouring
Shopkins
Sparkle World
Star Girl
Star Princess
Sweet
Trolls
We Love
Yoohoo

Recent Cancellations

Animagic
It’s For Girls
Princess Pippa
Princess And Pony
Princess
Princess Creativity

Pre-Teen

Activity Fun
Activity Series
Amazing
Batman Superman
Berugby
Dinosaur Attack
Download
First News
Eco Kids Planet
Futurama Specials
Go Girl
Hanazuki
Kick Extra
Mineworld
LEGO Specials
Minecraft Mayhem
Minecraft World
MLP Equestrian Girls
My Pretty Princess
Phoenix Weekly
Pretty Princess Playpack
National Geographic Kids
Spinner Power
Toxic
Top Of The Pops

Primary Boys

110% Gaming
Action Combat
Action Force
Action GTX
Beano
Cars
Cool Kidz
Dino Friends
Dinosaur Action
Dinosaur Attack
Epic Magazine
Footy
Get Busy
Gunge Magazine
Horrible Histories Magazine
It’s Time For
Lego Comic Specials
Lego Nexo Knights
Lego Ninjago
Lego Star Wars
Marvel Heroes
Mega
Pokemon
Scooby Doo
Simpsons Comic Magagazine
Star Wars Adventures
Strike It
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Transformers Rid
Ultimate Spider-Man
WWE Kids

Recent Cancellations

Danger Mouse
Doctor Who Adventures – but still an active title so may return

Teen Comics and Magazines

2000AD
Adventure Time
All Star Batman
Astonishing Spider-Man
Avengers Universe
Batman Magazine
Commando Action Adventure
Commando Gold Collection
Commando Home Of Heroes
Commando Silver Collection
DC Superheroes (UK)
DC Universe Presents
Deadpool Unleashed
Essential X-Men
Glitter Fairies
I Love
Incredible Hulks
Judge Dredd Megazine
Mad (USA)
Marvel Legends
Mighty World Of Marvel
Otaku
Pokemon Mania
Pony World
Sleepy Hollow Magazine
Spinner Force
Star Wars Junior Graphic Novels
Tales From The Tardis
Top Model
Walking Dead
Wolverine And Deadpool

Recent Cancellations

DC Comics Showcase
Fairy Princess Colour
Summer Princess
Zoom

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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