WH Smiths children's magazines rack, August 2014. Adventure comics such as 2000AD and Commando are racked in a separate section of this store.

British Comic Sales Figures: Winners and Losers (July – December 2014)

WH Smiths children's magazines rack, August 2014. Adventure comics such as 2000AD and Commando are racked in a separate section of this store.
WH Smiths children’s magazines rack, August 2014. Adventure comics such as 2000AD and Commando are racked in a separate section of this store.

The Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) sales figures for titles registered with the organisation were published recently and comics and children’s magazine publishers have in the main reacted positively to the numbers, which see younger titles hold steady and, in some cases, grow.

There’s good news for Immediate Media’s teen magazine Mega and Egmont’s TOXIC, which have both seen a rise in sales. Sales for both Doctor Who Adventures and Doctor Who Magazine also remain strong and seem to have weathered a change of lead with their usual vigour. The only superhero title that is ABC listed is Panini’s Ultimate Spider-Man, which also saw a small rise in overall sales during the reporting period of July – December 2014. While Ben 10 sales have dipped, Lego Legends of Chima is thriving.

DownTheTubes’ Jeremy Briggs took a look at the details of the ABC figures for The Beano and found cause for celebration at DC Thomson. He told us, “The difference in The Beano’s average circulation between 2013 and 2014 while downwards is pretty much negligible but what is interesting is the ratio of shop sales to subscription sales. In 2013 Beano subscription sales were 31% of the total while in 2014 they were 38% showing that DC Thomson have an appreciably increasing subscription base for the title.”

Things were not so rosy for its stablemate however. “Dennis and Gnasher on the other hand has had a big drop of more than 16% in its average circulation between 2013 and 2014,  has minimal subscribers and a wide difference in the sales figures for its individual issues. The lowest selling issue in 2014 sold less than half of the highest selling issue, a fact that also held true in 2013, which suggests that the title has not really found a stable readership since its regeneration from BeanoMAX two years ago.”

Barbie seems to be taking a knock – a reflection of the meteoric rise in popularity of Disney’s Frozen characters, which probably explains why Egmont’s Disney girl titles remain so buoyant (Disney Princess is up 8.7% year on year). Monster High is also holding its own among the girls titles.

Egmont Publishing’s magazines division enjoyed a strong set of ABC results for the period July–December 2014, with year on year increases for Egmont’s evergreen character magazines; Disney Princess, Thomas Express and Fireman Sam. Disney Princess continues to be the best-selling Primary Girls title in the UK, with its average monthly sale being over 25% higher than its closest rival.

Also within the pre-school market, Hello Kitty, Thomas and Friends and Dora the Explorer have each returned significant period on period uplifts and TOXIC, Egmont’s own-brand title for pre-teen boys celebrates a 4% period on period increase, and the magazine is also celebrating its 250th issue.

“The children’s market is highly competitive and dominated by strong brands,” commented Gillian Laskier, Managing Director of Magazines, Egmont Publishing. “It’s great that our classic and newer character titles continue to thrive and grow in this challenging and vibrant sector of the magazine market.

“Parents recognise that magazines are a great way to encourage their children to read and that magazines represent an ideal route to reading for pleasure.”

“Immediate continues to grow, underpinned by the strength of our print business,” enthuses Tom Bureau, CEO of Immediate Media, which publishes Doctor Who Adventures and many junior magazines such as Octonauts and Mike the Knight.

Boosted by launch activity Immediate remains the number one publisher in the overall Children’s market, +7.8% year on year. CBeebies Magazine is up a remarkable 41% with the popular title having an ABC figure of 60,199, while Lego Legends of Chima has rocketed by 25.2% to an ABC of 53,759.

“As these results show, we’ve seen strong organic growth in key areas as well as the benefit of acquisitions – notably in our Craft and Sport division,” notes Tom.”We’re growing market share, subscriptions revenues and newstrade RSV as our consumers continue to love our brands in print.”

“Beyond print, our market leading brands continue to get stronger – reaching more consumers across more diverse platforms than ever before. With our profitability at record levels and a thriving portfolio of special interest brands we remain focused on delighting our passionate and engaged communities, delivering the content and products they want.”

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.

Not every comic or children’s magazine is ABC listed, so as usual there are, sadly, no figures for 2000AD, Commando or The Phoenix in the public domain.

View our spreadsheet of ABC figures here (2006 – 2014)

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John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

7 thoughts on “British Comic Sales Figures: Winners and Losers (July – December 2014)

  1. I still think that nursery comics maintain decent sales because they’re within sight and reach of the target audience. I think it was a mistake for Smiths etc to put The Beano and some other titles above the eyeline / reach of kids.

  2. I agree. I think positioning really depends on the size of the Smiths store in some cases. I can see why Smiths separate the teen titles from kids titles because it may be felt the covers of 2000AD, say wouldn’t be appropriate alongside The Beano. But this doesn’t explain why some titles are so high up that only adults can reach them. As you noted, The Beano is racked on the top shelf but in Sainsbury’s here it’s on the bottom.

    Smiths don’t seem to get that they should make more of their magazines – which are in effect ‘perishable’ items – over stationery etc which has taken over the front of stores over the past few years. I’d argue that magazines and newspapers are their Unique Selling Point and they should make more of them, not less, in an effort to sell them quickly.

    While the kids comics section isn’t too bad in Lancaster, some sections are dreadful – you can’t even see some magazines because of the way they’ve been racked, obscured by box outs. It’s very poor shelf management.

    1. John I thought the age of the readership was interesting as well higher % of younger readers when I expected it to be older. Just imagine some serious advertising and more visible in supermarkets etc would surely improve this even more.?

  3. Something else that just occurred to me is, from my observations anyway, local newsagents only stock preschool titles, if they stock comics at all. No wonder their sales are ok.

    Yes, even in your photo there are mags stuck at the back of the shelves in the shadows. No one is going to notice those, and they’re not going to sell unless someone is actually looking for a specific title and takes the trouble to root into the darkness. Too many shops with shelves like that unfortunately.

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