Last week, while in the grocery checkout line with my daughter ( age 8) she asked if she could get an Archie Digest. Like most comic loving dads, I am overjoyed anytime she expresses any interest in my hobby, so of course I said yes.
There were several to decide from, but this is the one she settled on:
It cost $3.99, which was quite a bargain considering all the story content that came in the digest. My daughter picked it because she liked the fairy tale themed story she glimpsed while flipping through the issue. She also saw it contained Josie and the Pussycats who she likes as well.
TBH - I was actually surprised that they still sold Archie Digests. I was a bit like my friends at work who are always surprised that comic books are still sold. I've probably passed by Archie Digests many times over the years, but just sort of figured they had moved out of the grocery stores. Usually, when I'm in the grocery store, it's by myself, picking up less than 10 items, so I don't stand in the line long enough to really note what in the racks.
I think I also just naturally assumed the general downturn in sales that has affected the superhero comics market may have affected Archie comics. Which got me to thinking just how ARE Archie Comics doing these days?
Fortunately for me, Johanna Draper Carlson over at ComicsWorthReading has done all the heavy lifting.
The first thing I saw was that, yeah, the singles/pamphet editions sell pretty much about the same as your average C list superhero title (think Ms. Marvel or Blue Beetle) in the 7K to 15K range. Also, sales of titles have dropped quite a bit each year.
Archie, the flagship title, which sold 27K in the 2007 dipped down to 13K in 2008 (the beginning of the recession) and is now only climbed back up to 15K.
Betty and Veronica, another staple of the line, was at 17K in 2007 and is now only 9K!
Many titles have been cancelled altogether over the years (Archie & Friends, Jughead, Sabrina, etc...) Based on the ComicsWorthReading article, 9K is the historical cancellation mark for an Archie title, so if that is true, Archie comics only has one title NOT in the danger zone for cancellation now!
The digests do much better (as one might suspect given their higher visibility in stores) with a range of 46K for Archie Digest down to 37K for Jughead Digest. The only problem is, Archie comics publishes a LOT more of each digest than they actually sell with the percentage of sales to publishing running around 26% sell through.
That's also a number that has dropped over the years. Back in 2010, the digests were selling at a rate of about 40% published. In 2007, Archie Digest sold 97K. The Jughead Digest sold 82K.
Which leads me speculate on the causes (which I think or many)
- Over the recent years, we've seen a decline in traditional grocery store chains as Wal-mart superstores spread. This would decrease the number of racks the digests could be placed on.
- As the CWR article seems to indicate, the recession took a huge toll on the digests. No doubt the $4.00 books became less of an impulse buy to cash-strapped shoppers.
- Tablets and cellphones, with their infinitely more engrossing apps have found their way into the hands of young kids. Now, you don't hand a kid a comic book for a long trip, but let them play with your phone instead.
I suspect those novelty issues are doing pretty well for them on several levels, so I wouldn't count the gang in Riverdale out just yet.
Which for my daughter (and me) is a good thing! :)