DC Comics co-publisher Dan DiDio was at a comic-book store in New Jersey when he noticed something alarming. Over the course of an hour, only two customers came in. And, this was a Saturday — the busiest day of the week for most retailers.
“The walk-in, casual fans have gotten away from us,” DiDio observed. “We are down to just the die-hard buyers.”
Comic-book stores have become increasingly barren, with sales dropping consistently over the last three years and down an additional 7% so far in 2011.
Theories abound as to why. Some blame convoluted story lines, while others point to cynical publicity stunts like killing key characters only to bring them back a few months later. But the main culprit more likely lies beyond the page: Today’s youth is far more interested in spending its leisure hours in the digital worlds of YouTube, Xbox and Twitter.
The generational shift is not lost on DiDio and his associates at DC. For the first time, the comic-book company will now make each of its issues available on digital devices such as iPads the same day it arrives in stores — a jarring departure for many retailers that only have to look at the fate of record stores to see the dangers that digital downloads present to brick-and-mortar merchants.