British Comic Sales Figures: Winners and Losers (January – June 2015)

WH Smiths children's magazines rack, August 2015, which includes comics such as The Beano and both Panini's Doctor Who Adventures and Titan's Doctor Who Comic. As with some other Smiths stories (depending on their size) adventure comics aimed at older audiences such as 2000AD and Commando, and Panini's Marvel superhero titles, are racked in a separate section of this store.
WH Smiths children’s magazines rack, August 2015, which includes comics such as The Beano and both Panini’s Doctor Who Adventures and Titan’s Doctor Who Comic. As with some other Smiths stories (depending on their size) adventure comics aimed at older audiences such as 2000AD and Commando, and Panini’s Marvel superhero titles, 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 this week and overall, despite an overall decline in magazine circulation figures – down an average 5.5 per cent –  comics and children’s magazines continue to do well, with almost 50 titles appealing to young and teenage readers in the Top 200 magazine on sale in the UK (based on a list published by the Press Gazette).

We’ve updated our spreadsheet of sales figures we think will most interest downthetubes readers here.

Sainsbury's Lancaster Comic Section, August 2015

Sainsbury's Lancaster Comic Section, August 2015. In addition to this display, comics feature in a separate "Recommended Reading" section on the end of this aisle, its titles including The Beano, Skylanders and other titles.
Sainsbury’s Lancaster Comic Section, August 2015. In addition to this display, comics feature in a separate “Recommended Reading” section on the end of this aisle, its titles including The Beano, Skylanders and other titles. 2000AD and Commando are not sold in this supermarket.

Campaign, a news title dedicated to celebrating creative excellence in the communications industry, notes that in relative terms, the best performing fully paid-for titles were Immediate Media’s teen magazine Mega (up 43 per cent to 34,495) and CBeebies Magazine (up 25 per cent to 69,466).

Egmont’s TOXIC (55,004) has also seen a sales rise, and the LEGO titles from the same publisher are doing well, with Lego – Lands of Chima and LEGO Ninjago both with average sales of over 50,000. However, some long-running titles aren’t faring as well – Ben 10 has slipped below 30,000, (29,907, down from 34,304). When you consider it was selling an average 71,104 copies in the second half of 2010, it does seem in need of some kind of recharge.

Doctor Who Adventures (Panini) Issue 1Both Doctor Who Adventures and Doctor Who Magazine have suffered sales drops. Panini took over DWA earlier this year, but the title has an average sale of 20,506, not much less than the previous period figures of 20,944, but a far cry from the average of 105, 557 it was selling in 2006. With DWM seeing a circulation drop of 23.5 per cent to an average of 25,663 from 33,419, that’s quite a marked change for the Magazine. Perhaps  the introduction of a new Doctor on the show is a factor her, or competition from other Doctor Who titles on the market, including Titan Comics Doctor Who Comic, for which no sales figures are available.

“I’m pleased to see that TOXIC is still selling so well, commented British comics archivist and comics creator Lew Stringer. “It’s been a great success for Egmont since its launch in 2002 and its good that its 13th year of continuous publication hasn’t been an unlucky one. I guess we must be doing something right.

A panel from "Team Toxic" by Lew Stringer
A panel from “Team Toxic” which features in TOXIC Magazine, by Lew Stringer

“I’m disappointed to see a dip in circulation for both of Panini’s Doctor Who titles,” he added. “although I did notice in shops in my area that retailers did not increase their orders when DWA relaunched with a new first issue. Kids can’t buy it if they can’t discover it. Also of course these figures cover the months when Doctor Who isn’t on TV, so that’s bound to have some detrimental effect on sales of both of those mags.”

Once again, the only superhero title that is ABC listed is Panini’s Ultimate Spider-Man, which has seen an 8.5% rise in circulation – let’s hope other superhero-related titles are doing as well.

Over in the girls magazine sector, there’s a strong performance for Egmont’s Disney Frozen, Redan’s Sparkle World – but Monster High has taken quite a hit.

Overall, the Press Gazette notes that children’s magazines were among the best performing in the ABC figures for the first half of 2015, according to a sector-by-sector breakdown. The 12 magazines categorised for for primary aged boys saw their combined circulations grow by 36.2 per cent to 409,227. The ten titles for girls of the same age recorded a combined average circulation of 395,192, up 24.3 per cent.

Outside the children’s sectors, of interest to downthetubes readers will be the continued rise of Private Eye, which claims highest circulation since 1986 with 4.6 per cent boost. and is at Number 18 in the Top 20 selling magazines in the UK (the top three magazines being TV Choice, What’s On TV and Radio Times). The news magazine sector, notes the Guardian, apparently bucking the trend of declining circulations.

Intriguingly, despite all the hype, the sale of digital versions of some magazines don’t seem to be doing well. Of the 90 digital editions audited by ABC for this period, 37 saw their circulations fall from the first half of 2014.

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. Note also that some  titles only report annually, such as The Beano, so we don’t know how that title has fared sales wise in this period.

Update, 20th August 2015: Commenting on the ABC Sales Figures publisher Immediate Media said they remain the number one publisher in the overall Children’s market, boosted by launch activity, with a gravity-defying performance up 31% year-on-year. “CBeebies Magazine is one of the fastest rising of all consumer magazines with a 25% year-on-year increase with 69,466 fortnightly readers.

“Meanwhile Mega has rocketed by 42% year-on-year, while Lego Legends of Chima is up 19%. Children’s appetite for Lego is apparent in the success of new launch Lego Ninjago which has debuted at 58,070.

“Swashbuckle has also outperformed expectations, landing with a debut ABC of 51,007. Readers have also given the thumbs up to Top of the Pops Magazine’s redesign as it has had a successful re-launch with period on period growth of +5.8%.”

Egmont Publishing UK have also commented on the figures and you can read their statement here.

View our spreadsheet of ABC figures here (2006 – 2015)

Web Links

Campaign: Top 100 Magazines At A Glance (January – June 2015)

Press Gazette Top 200 Titles (January – June 2015)

• Press Gazette: How magazine sectors performed in ABCs for first half of 2015: Children’s titles up, women’s weeklies down

Press Gazette Digital Magazine ABCs (January – June 2015)

Published by

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative", working as an editor, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. John has worked in British comics publishing for over 30 years. His credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel UK and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines. He also edited STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics, including Team M.O.B.I.L.E. and The Beatles Story. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare” for Tian Books. 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.

3 thoughts on “British Comic Sales Figures: Winners and Losers (January – June 2015)

  1. People often ask me why there are so few non licensed comics on UK news stands these days. There are some worthy survivors – 2000AD, The Beano – but why isn’t the for example The Phoenix on sale in more places?

    The answer is boring but simple. The costs of distribution to the news stand in the UK are weighted wholly in favour of the distributor and vendor who appear to have little interest in making sure the title in their shop the publisher has paid through the nose for the ‘privilege’ to be in is racked properly or even in the right section.

    Case in point: WH Smiths junior comics rack, Lancaster, featured in the story above. DC Thomson have paid to have their fantastic summer specials in the push out bins, and there they are. But why is The Beano itself buried out of sight in the same section? Why is Titan’s Doctor Who Comic in this section? Wouldn’t it be better with the Panini Marvel titles, 2000AD and Commando (which are in their own separate section beside the gaming, TV and film magazines? As comics creator Lew Stringer has seen this in other WH Smiths, is this Titan’s choice or are some confusing DWC with Doctor Who Adventures?

    It’s no wonder there are so few non-licensed titles out there these days, it’s simply very hard to build brand when the odds are stacked against you.

    Another issue for long-running titles is “Visibility”. 2000AD has a “visibility” problem in that it’s been going so long many people buying it from newsagenst have it on order which means copies become “put aways” for the customer to collect. Naturally, this means less copies are actually on shelves unless the newsagent over orders – something an individual WH Smiths can no longer do,

    I suspect as its orders will be based on Electronic Point of Sales Data. EPOS is very useful to the bigger vendor – it means they’re not going to to get caught out with over orders – but say, for example Lew Stringer launched an all-new “Brickman” comic on the back of a TV deal (no, no! It’s not happened; sadly, no-one has the werewithal to actally think of this). Now, imagine the manager of the local WH Smiths who knows Lew thinks it might be a great idea to actually order more copies of Brickman #1 because he could ask Lew if he’ll do a signing.

    A local comic shop could do this easily, but a major news vendor can’t, because the only decsion making they can make is dictated from Head Office. No risk taking, please!.

    It would be down to the incredibly clever publisher launching Brickman to PAY Smiths to do a promotion.

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