Why Do Comics Shops Struggle to Sell Manga?

Why Do Comics Shops Struggle to Sell Manga?
The wall of comics at Midtown Comics, NY

The wall of comics at Midtown Comics, NY

After the discussion about how American comics are losing readers to anime and manga, the next discussion that bubbled up was about one of the main players in the comics business ecosystem in N. America: comics shops.

Comics shops, unlike large chain bookstores like Barnes and Noble or Books-a-Million, are mostly small businesses, with at most, one or two locations. Most specialize in selling monthly periodical comics (a.k.a. “floppies”, which are about 30 pages, full-color and sell for about $5 each) from the main N. American publishers: Marvel, DC, Image, and Dark Horse, along with a broad array of graphic novel and indie comics publishers.

As small businesses with slim profit margins, comics shops have many things to consider when they purchase stock for their shelves. Adding manga to the mix of these concerns can seem more like a headache than an opportunity sometimes.

But as manga’s fortunes have rebounded over the past few years, it’s becoming clear that comics shops need to include manga in their retail mix. But how can they do so, if they don’t know what will sell, and have to place a bet on bringing in non-returnable stock, thanks to the way comics are distributed to stores via the Direct Market?

Let’s eavesdrop on a Sunday morning Twitter conversation with three comics shop owners/buyers, and several interested and opinionated comics readers from (mostly) N. America, and a few from abroad.

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