Marvel Comics has announced that they will no longer be distributing comic books to comic stores in North America via Diamond Comic Distributors. Instead, they will be exclusively distributed by Penguin Random House Publisher Services (PRHPS), a division of Penguin Random House. This will be an exclusive worldwide multi-year sales and distribution agreement for Marvel's newly published and backlist comic books, trade collections, and graphic novels to comics shops. And PRH officially begins its distribution to Direct Market retailers for all Marvel titles starting October 1st.
However, Marvel states that Direct Market comic book retailers, as well as being able to order Marvel direct from PRH, will also be able to order through Diamond Comic Distributors, who will act as a wholesaler under terms established by Diamond in the US and the UK. The terms for stores may be different as they are now; however, we will wait to see for that to drop. But Diamond will become a customer/vendor of PRH, just like every other store.
Hachette Book Group will continue to manage the distribution of Marvel's graphic novels and trade collections to the book market.
The reason for the change, given to me by Marvel sources, is that Marvel believes that this will grow the market, provide more efficiency, and more reliable resources, as Penguin Random House are one of the largest and most experienced book publisher and distributor in the world, and Marvel believes that what PRH can provide Marvel – and retailers – far more then they get now. But providing the opportunity for comic stores to still order from Diamond will smooth out the changes.
It is notable that Penguin Random House prides itself as a "free freight" distributor, unlike Diamond, so that all shipping charges will be absorbed in the orderable price of the comics, no additional shipping fees will be charged.
Oh, and new Marvel Comics will still be available in comic stores on Wednesdays, just like all the other Diamond Comic Distributor titles.
Marvel states in a press release, "After a thorough analysis of the market environment, Marvel has chosen PRHPS as its distribution partner to create a sustainable, productive supply chain and enhanced infrastructure for Marvel publications that will benefit comics retailers and fans alike for years to come. Penguin Random House is known for its state-of-the-art multi-ranging services that enable independent booksellers to increase efficiency and profitability."
"Marvel's entire history is built on telling great stories. And as we've seen for decades, those stories go hand in hand with equipping the comic shops who share them. Marvel and Penguin Random House stand by that vision, and we are excited to build and expand those opportunities for our talent, retailers, and fans," said Dan Buckley, President of Marvel Entertainment. "Comics are the core of the Marvel Universe, and we are confident this new partnership will continue to grow and evolve this resilient industry. We look forward to advancing our capabilities with PRHPS to serve our fans and the Direct Market. We thank Diamond for their many years of support and partnership as we continue our relationship with them in other areas."
"This is an exciting time for comics, and we're thrilled to partner with Marvel in taking the next steps to support the growth of the marketplace, together with our Direct Market retail partners," said Jeff Abraham, President of Penguin Random House Publisher Services. "Based on the foundation of our relationships with physical retailers, we're confident in the significant growth of the comic book industry and welcome the opportunity to further collaborate with and invest PRHPS' resources in the Direct Market. Combining the standard-setting supply chain and sales capabilities of PRH with Marvel's renowned universe of stories and characters, we expect to reach even more fans of its artists and writers throughout the world."
Marvel also states, "Penguin Random House is a free-freight company, allowing retailers to simplify their business models while alleviating the volatility and complexity of reducing freight costs and planning. Through many of PRH's standard offerings, like its rapid replenishment program for graphic novels and advanced supply chain, Direct Market retailers will experience more flexibility to manage inventory and stock their stores to best serve their customers."
And that "Marvel's full print and online October Marvel Previews catalog and comic book solicits will be available in July and distributed by PRHPS to active accounts. All comic book and trade orders for titles going on sale this October should be made through PRHPS. Early solicit titles will be available for order starting on May 26. Retailers can open PRHPS accounts now to register for Marvel's monthly title catalogs and solicits, which will continue to be available to retailers approximately three months ahead of on sale."
What this means for Diamond, who lost DC Comics last year, and now – presumably – will have far tighter margins on Marvel Comics and may not be able to distribute the titles competitively with Penguin Random House – we will learn later. But for now, Diamond will be continuing to supply Marvel Comics to retailers who want to stay with them. In response to the new, Diamond boss Steve Geppi has stated the following;
Today, Marvel announced a new arrangement for comics, trades, and graphic novels going to the Direct Market. Starting with product on-sale October 1, Diamond will purchase these Marvel products from Penguin Random House (PRH) as a wholesaler rather than distributing them directly from Marvel. This change represents a behind-the-scenes shift in how we obtain these products for distribution, but it does not impact our ability to supply Marvel comics, trades, and graphic novels worldwide and we are pleased that we will continue selling these products to the Direct Market.
As you know, Diamond has been in the business of comic distribution for almost 40-years. We are the industry's largest single-source of comics, games, collectibles and supplies offering your products to more than 4,500 retailers each month. We have an unsurpassed commitment to the success of your business and focus heavily on partnering with you to market your brands, sell your products and manage your inventory. With Diamond, your products are alongside nearly all the major players, increasing your reach and exposure. This allows retailers to more easily cross-sell to fans of related products. Our dedicated marketing staff supports these efforts with daily communications to customers, including time-sensitive messages as well as a consumer team focused on engaging fans with your products and amplifying your consumer messages.
Throughout our history, we have continuously invested in improvements to our distribution network. Today we have over one-million square feet of warehouse space where we carefully pick, pack and consistently deliver more than two-million units per week. We have a robust network of transportation providers including drop points in major metro areas to reduce costs and increase convenience for customers ordering your product. Diamond has always been highly focused on the specialized needs of our industry and we are dedicated to the Direct Market. We have a solid foundation and are well-positioned for the future. We will continue to work hard to earn your business today and every day.
Many more shoes to drop on this one. For retailers, the big take out will probably be "you can order Marvel through Diamond or PRH. But PRH won't charge you freight."