In 2003, the market for Japanese comics exploded to $100 million, and manga distributor Diamond Comics Distributors (ToyDirectory) is cashing in.
Frank Supiot, the import toys brand manager at Diamond Comics, has experienced the demand for toys increase at the same rate as anime and manga. "DCD has had ´Import Toys´ in a dedicated section in PREVIEWS for five years now," he said. "Buyers are seeking figures based on popular anime/manga characters.
Diamond Joins with Bandai Japan
Diamond has made an agreement with toy giant Bandai Japan to import many of their new products, making it possible to find these hot items at local neighborhood comic book stores at a cost competitive with even the Japanese retail price. Before, North American consumers looking to get in on Bandai Japan´s new toys have had to use specialty dealers, which meant paying for international shipping costs and middlemen markups.
Many retailers who use Diamond Comics´ online catalog, "Previews," may not know how anticipated these toys are in the United States. Supiot acknowledged that it can be quite difficult to stay on top of foreign products. "Most retailers are really up on the products currently available in the U.S., but may not be equally educated as to what is on the shelves overseas," he said.
But the retailers giving Japanese toys a chance in their shops appear to be seeing success. "Our sales trends for Japanese toys that DCD distributes in North America on an exclusive basis weighs heavily on the side of reorders, indicating that the sell-thru is remarkably high," Supiot said. "This is the opposite of many of the other product categories that DCD distributes, in that they normally experience higher initial orders, and lower subsequent reorders."
Supiot´s advice to retailers wishing to make the most out of this agreement would be to simply let their customers know that these products are available. "I attend many trade shows, and I am constantly surprised at how many consumers have no idea that these types of toys can be had just by going to their local comic shop," he said. "Get a few extra copies of ´Previews´ and give them to your potential largest customers, take a look at their buying trends and sort of extrapolate that out for your full customer base."
Shops carrying comic books can compare their orders from just two years ago for English-language manga, and see how many new customers and readers they have, and introduce those folks to the toys that DCD imports.
Gaston Dominguez, owner of Meltdown Comics in Hollywood, has been importing toys from Japan since the early ´90s. He is enthusiastic about the agreement between Bandai Japan and Diamond. "It´ll be cool," he said. "I can sell these toys for a better price than I´ve been offering in the past. You can bet I´ll be taking advantage of it."
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