Total sales to the direct market increased 3.8 percent in the first half of the year, Diamond Comic Distributors announced during its annual retailer luncheon at Comic-Con International.
Merchandise -- toys, apparel, posters, etc. -- was the strongest category, climbing 10.4 percent over the same period in 2013, while graphic novels inch upward 2.9 percent. Sales of comics slipped 1.4 percent. In a statement, Chris Powell, Diamond's vice president of retailer services, framed the performances of the comics and graphic novel categories as "level compared to last year, but [they] are still 12 percent above 2012 sales figures."
"What it all points to is that the health of comic book specialty shops is better than ever," Powell said. "Retailers continue to diversify their product offerings — and with many stores moving into larger spaces in the past few years — we've seen a greater emphasis on merchandise and other product lines. Coupled with strong sales from comics and graphic novels, stores are on good financial footing and we're expecting a strong finish to 2014."
And some of those larger spaces opened up after the collapse of a bookstore chain once viewed as competition for specialty shops.
"They’ve been able to move into large locations because there is a lot of strip mall spaces available -- with Borders and all of these stores going out,” Dan Manser, Diamond's director of marketing, told Publishers Weekly. “We have a lot of stores that have 1,500-1,800 square feet now.”