A47825Cf2638Ad-770163With the happy holidaze over, everyone is back to fretting over the economy, which makes total sense, since the economy pretty much nuked the holidays if you were a retailer. John Jackson Miller is back to report that January is the cruelest month, breeding double-digit revenue drops from the dead earth:

Again, individual reports of closings and openings don’t give us the full larger picture — every store’s situation is different — and the macro performance for the comics industry in the 2007 appears to have run ahead of the general economy. But January is a month for comics industry watchers to keep an eye on. The first month of the historic “dead quarter” usually sees the slowest sales of the year, and back at the end of the last boom, something like 1,100 stores closed in January 1994, kicking off a six-year downturn. Product mix also deserves a special look in this time — there are a number of non-comics lines that are performing more weakly than comics, so the “diversify, diversify, diversify” call of the mid-1990s might be creating some additional downside exposure now for shops heavily invested in slow sectors. Something to keep an eye on as reports come in…

In a worrisome second post, Miller does a month-to-month analysis that quantifies the usual drop, leaving you free to fret over what this year’s plunge will be:

December 1996 to January 1997: -15.3%
December 1997 to January 1998: -27.7%
December 1998 to January 1999: -15.2%
December 1999 to January 2000: -18.5%
December 2000 to January 2001: -8.9%
December 2001 to January 2002: -3.6%
December 2002 to January 2003: -4.8%
December 2003 to January 2004: -19.9%
December 2004 to January 2005: -26.7%
December 2005 to January 2006: -17.0%
December 2006 to January 2007: -4.8%
December 2007 to January 2008: -7.0%

Chris Butcher takes a look at the overall American manga business and concludes that the direct market — i.e. the comics shop system — will be very important to manga in America despite its general indifference to manga, and manga publishers’ indifference to the DM:

– I am not convinced that things will ever get better in the Direct Market, for manga. I feel that Diamond Comics’ near-monopoly is the only thing it has going for it, and when the product is available elsewhere they just can’t compete as distributors. When they do have an exclusive–a monopoly–on an item, look at the haphazard way in which that item is handled! Ultimately, faith by publishers in the direct market is often misplaced.

– That said, I think that faith in the direct market by publishers is absolutely necessary, and it’s going to take publishers and smart retailers demanding both change and accountability in the system for it to pay off.

Butcher touches on many things — the manga glut, the arrival of adult “Art” manga as a viable category, and much more. It’s as good a start to the year’s musings as you’re likely to find.

In slightly more optimistic news, Jim Milliot at Publishers Weekly points out that of ALL the stocks tracked on the PW Stock Index, only ONE rose in 2008…and that was Marvel:

The stocks on the Publishers Weekly Stock Index lost nearly half their value in 2008, tumbling 46.6% for the year, a steeper drop than the 33.8% decline posted by the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Only one of the 16 stocks on the PWSI had an increase in its share price in the year—Marvel’s rose 15.1%, thanks in large part to a successful movie slate. John Wiley had the smallest decline in the year and, like most companies on the PWSI, remains solidly profitable. One of the few companies that has been losing money is Borders; its stock price plunged 96.2% to finish the year at 40 cents per share; the chain’s stock has been trading at under $1 since December 1.

§ Finally, for a big picture overview, if you believe — like the Beat — that greed is bad, you may enjoy this postmortem of the sleep of reason from two economists at the New York Times.