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Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Are falling sales bad news for The Dandy?

(With thanks to Ian Wheeler and Jeremy Briggs): The ABC sales figures are out for the first half of 2011 and DC Thomson's Dandy - revamped in October 2010 and promoted with a massive initial print run - is not looking at all healthy. It is not even making a 7,500 issue average compared to over 15,000 in the previous period (view the report here).

The detailed figures it indicate Britain's oldest humour comic doesn't even sell an average of 6,900 copies in shops in the UK and Eire combined, suggesting the revamp has failed to capture new readers.

Here are the overall figures for various British comics, and we have updated our longer list here on the main DTT site.

Note that titles such as 2000 AD, Judge Dredd Megazine and Commando are not listed (although based on recent interviews it's estimated Commando sells some 8000 copies per issue) and some publishers such as Titan Magazines ABC list very few titles, so this should not be seen as a full snapshot of the British comics industry.

Barbie - 53,013
Dandy - 7,448
Beano - 37,146
BeanoMax - 24,438
Disney Princess - 63,238
Disney Tinkerbell - 29,016
Doctor Who Adventures - 50,013
Doctor Who Magazine - 30,682
Simpsons Comics - 64,882
Spectacular Spider-Man - 28,003
Toy Story - 42,294
TOXIC - 40,503
VIZ - 67,851
World Of Cars - 31,532

Strong figures for some other titles - although other humour titles such as Simpsons Comics and SpongeBob Squarepants have also seen sales falls - make the Dandy's dropping sales even more shocking, but would DC Thomson consider cancelling such a 'heritage' title, particularly given its strong brand name outside of comics?

We have to wonder, though, whether DC Thomson management might again be considering merging the title with its stronger partner in the stables - The Beano.



5 comments:

Wendy Wood said...

I can't help wondering if the Harry Hill covers are partially (but only partially) to blame here. As popular as he is he's a very love him or hate him kind of person.

Has any increase in sales due to his appearance on the cover matched or exceeded any losses due to people who dislike him avoiding the title?

The covers that do feature more traditional Dandy characters look so different from their established look that any nostalgia factor people have for the characters or title is completely neutralised.

Parents often like to introduce their children to the same franchises or titles they grew up with, but not if the new version is so radically different from the version they knew and loved.

Looking at the covers for recent issues of the Beano, they look like Beano cover. You could strip the title of and instantly know what it is anyway. I cant say the same thing for the recent Dandy covers.

It seems, to me at least, what's causing the falling sales is their attempts to update the title backfiring horribly and that the solution, if there is one, is to take a step or two backwards.

Lew Stringer said...

As someone mentioned to me the other day, it's a bit suspicious that sales of The Dandy appear to have dropped exactly half when it went from fortnightly to weekly.

Is there a expert on statistics around to explain this bizarre coincidence?

I'm sure some readers did hate the changes, but it seems a bit odd that despite The Dandy lowering its cover price from £2.50 to £1.50, filling its pages with new comic strips, and having the best distribution it's had for years, that it'd lose HALF of its readers.

Peter said...

I was really rooting for the Dandy after the revamp.

and felt it was a real improvement over its previous incarnation, which was starting to feel like a flimsy pamphlet that came free with all those toys in the plastic bag.

By aiming it at a younger audience, improving the content and quality of the strips and tying it in with Harry Hill I felt like they had got all the new ingredients right.

Aside from a couple of minor irks,
like the oversize covers, which I still feel should have a poster on the inside to at least justify having them from a kids point of view.

I really hope the Dandy has not had its day!

Kid said...

The fluctuating price every few weeks whenever they try and give it a sales boost by including stuff few people want can't help. In fact, it probably works in reverse; most kids on fixed pocket money can't or won't fork out an extra quid for an oversized lucky bag just to read a comic.

The simple truth is, a few strips aside, The Dandy is a poor 2nd cousin to the Beano, which is a vastly superior publication. And Wendy Wood is spot on with her comment about the nostalgia factor. DC Thomson shot themselves in the foot when they failed to take that into consideration.

Nobody who loves comics wants to see The Dandy cancelled or merged, but let's be honest - given it's current incarnation, it deserves to be put out of its misery.

John Freeman said...

What doesn't show up in the ABC figures is that The Dandy relaunched in October 2010 by putting out a massive print run - reliable information I have indicates it was a print run of over 220,000 copies. But by February 2011, sales were down to about what the latest ABCs report - figures which include subscription sales (which are minimal on both the Beano and Dandy, higher for monthly titles and impressive for both Doctor Who titles).

What happened to DC Thomson's brave attempt to get the new Dandy out there into newsagents? Well, the figures I have show that the launch issue DID get a good audience with sales on a par with an issue of The Beano and TOXIC. But it achieved that with a print run that simply wasn't sustainable and a sales efficiency that would send the accounts department screaming for blood, I expect. As the print run decreased, so did sales.

I suspect DC Thomson put out such a huge print run because it might well have been cheaper to do that than market the TV relaunch direct to consumer through TV advertising etc. Given that the cost of a 10 insert spot on just one TV channel can cost something like £25K, perhaps a large print run was the cheaper option, even taking into account distribution costs.

Some newsagents didn't help the relaunch, in my opinion. Despite the relaunch it was three weeks before my local Smiths actually put up the promotional box to highlight the Dandy - a box which was being used from the relaunch issue in stores elsewhere in the country, because Dandy contributor Nigel Parkinson published photos of it on his blog.

Plus, everyone who has worked on the editorial side of our business knows how these things work: a newsagent will sell, say, 20 copies of a title but instead of being able to order 30 next week, in the hope of selling more, the demands of Electronic Point of Sale will mean that a bean counter sees that a store sells 20 copies and order 15 on the logic that if 20 sold that was lucky, 15 will definitely sell. And the following week, that's cut to 10.

That might be a little simplistic and may not apply to independent news agents, but the way news chains work, local managers have very little control over what they can order (it's the same elsewhere in retail).

So it really doesn't matter if you're putting out a comic or a new Magazine and what the content is. If you don't pay for continued promotion, your title is relegated to the rest of the crowd and in the case of comics, often gets jumbled up with other titles (unless of course your local WH Smiths wisely decided to put chidlrens comics on a rack they can't reach).

But let's not be completely glum. Looking at the sales of The Dandy, it's possibly making more money for DC Thomson at £1.50 a week than it was at £2.50 a fortnight last year - over a fortnight, it's sales are now the same as it was before its October 2010 relaunch, perhaps a little more. But in terms of trying to retain or boost readership it would seem the relaunch has been a disappointment.

As I noted on DTT, all our humour titles - including those with a strong license - seem to be taking a hit (TOXIC taking less of a hit than others but still slightly down on the last reporting period).

Girls magazine sales - few of which actually include comics material - are bucking sales falls of between 8-10% for comics and magazines over the past year. But whether this is actually an indication that a girls comic would sell remains to be seen - we'll only find out when and if a publisher decides to have a look at Pat Mills girls comic project and publish it, perhaps.

It would be fascinating to know just how many copies 2000AD and Judge Dredd Megazine are selling but, like Star Wars, Transformers and many other titles of particular interest here, none of these are ABC listed.

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