The Great Statistical Purchasing Analysis of 2009!

In lieu of new reviews this week, due to the lazy brilliance of the holiday “skip week” imposed on us, I thought I’d take this opportunity to update you on my annual Statistical Purchasing Analysis for 2009. C’mon, I know there are some statistics nerds out there who like to quote percentages and rattle off facts during meetings as much as I do. Really, you know this is going to be exciting.

In order to maintain my own sanity (please, you don’t need to argue this point), I decided to simplify things significantly this year. Rather than delving deep into categories and qualitatively analyzing genre, format, and publisher, not to mention including purchasing intentions and ultimate disposition of the books, this is simply a quantifiable list of metrics with some brief commentary.

Assuming I move forward with this easily tracked format, I’ll have three data sets at the end of 2010; and what’s the rule? That’s right – Mr. Embry, my high school stats teacher, said that “three points make a trend.” I managed to catch that even while staring at Gretchen (who looked vaguely like Whitney Port from The Hills and used to wear frilly low cut tank tops on hot days, sans bra, offering some nice perky side boob), so in the future expect to see some fancy charts and shit instead of this droll sea of text – since we’re all visual learners around here.

Total Purchased: 193 (259 in 2008, -25%)
Total Cost: $682 ($777 in 2008, -12%)
Avg. Items/Week: 3.71 (4.98 in 2008, -25%)
Avg. Cost/Week: $13.12 ($14.94 in 2008, -12%)

Total Purchased: 26 (55 in 2008, -53%)
Total Cost: $521 ($1,200 in 2008, -57%)
Avg. Items/Week: .50 (1.06 in 2008, -53%)
Avg. Cost/Week: $10.02 ($23.08 in 2008, -57%)

Total Purchased: 219 (314 in 2008, -30%)
Total Cost: $1,203 ($1,977 in 2008, -39%)
Avg. Items/Week: 4.21 (6.04 in 2008, -30%)
Avg. Cost/Week: $23.13 ($38.02 in 2008, -39%)

* So yeah, the bottom line is that I bought less and spent less across all categories. Not surprising considering the greater economic conditions, but also the results of last year’s analysis told me that I was buying tons of stuff that I didn’t like and ended up giving away or selling. I made a conscious effort to still be an adventurous consumer, wanting to stay abreast of what’s out there, but also a bit more informed and selective in the process.

* Purchasing of single issues was down, about 25% or so, but interestingly enough the total cost of these items was not reduced proportionally, at only about a 12% reduction. I can easily attribute this to the average price point of single issues increasing. I didn’t track this specifically, but it’s obvious just by taking a look at the titles on the stands (and more selectively, those I buy), that the majority of them are no longer $2.99, but range from $3.50 to $3.99.

* I realize that business models change, inflation, recession, etc., but consider it a lesson learned; you can gouge me on one title for more money, but I just end up buying fewer titles overall, so best case scenario – it’s a wash, worst case scenario – the publisher/distributor/LCS actually lose money with a price hike, not to mention alienating the audience. Conventional wisdom would suggest that the reverse was true as well. Let’s say for example, that every title was lowered to $2.00. I’d probably be spending twice what I do now, simply because I’d subconsciously feel like I was “getting a deal” and be more willing to experiment on marginal titles since it would be perceived as a “low risk” purchase.

* As for weekly run rates on single issues, I’d been buying on average about 5 titles per week in 2008, and that was down in 2009 to roughly 3¾. Consistent with that, and the disproportional effect on cost, I’d been averaging a spend of about $14.94 weekly, which was down to $13.12 this year. That’s not terribly significant, other than to harp on the point that it represents a 12% drop in expenses, even though the total amount of raw items I was buying was reduced double that amount at approximately 25%.

* In terms of pure change, trades and graphic novels witnessed the biggest reduction. As for volume, I purchased 53% fewer items in this category. That’s a big drop to me, half. I bought fewer than half the bookshelf ready publications than I had the previous year. On average, I picked up one trade or GN per week in 2008, and that slipped to an average of .5 per week, or one every two weeks, which is a little easier to process in the real world.

* As for cost on trades and graphic novels, this was, not surprisingly, the bulk of the year’s savings as well. Cost was actually down 57% here and looking at the pure dollars it feels substantial. Instead of spending $1,200 (2008), it was down to about $521. Weekly run rates on trades and graphic novels were consistent with this drop, averaging about $10 per week, rather than the weekly average of $23 I’d spent the previous year.

* I’m generalizing here, but I think in most cases, this was me upgrading to a better/collected format on titles I’d already purchased in single issues, rather than totally “unknown” material I might be taking a chance on. It certainly felt like I was doing that and not just picking up some random OGN with unfamiliar creators and saying “oh, this looks cool, I’ll buy it!” If I didn’t previously consume the content, if there wasn’t a creative team I was at least familiar with, or if a book did not have some type of recommendation from a trusted source, then it probably didn’t get purchased as easily as it would have been in the past.

* Overall, the total volume of physical items I purchased (combining both categories) was down by about 30% and the associated total cost was reduced by almost 40%. That’s probably a direct result of purchasing significantly fewer trades and GN’s, which typically average a much higher price point than their floppy counterparts. Unlike single issues, there’s also an extremely wide range of pricing on trades and graphic novels. I could spend $100 on an oversized hardcover book, but it would only count as one item in the tracking system or, conversely, buy two $14.99 trades which would double the volume, but only bump the total spend by $30. Either scenario is capable of skewing the metrics a bit, tipping the scales back and forth between total number of raw units and relative cost.

* Converting these volume reductions to bottom line monetary impact, I ended up saving $774 as compared to the previous year. At first, I felt disappointed about not getting to read as much as I might have in the past, subscribing to the theory that “you don’t know what you don’t know,” and heaven forbid I missed something. Would I have enjoyed some of those books I didn’t get to try? Sure, maybe a couple. Would they have stayed in my collection long term? My purchasing analysis from last year suggests no, aside from a momentary diversion, they would have been consumed, disposed of, and ultimately forgotten as pop culture detritus. Did I miss out on some critically praised gem? I doubt it. The items I did go after, as I said, were recommendations from a wide array of trusted sources. Taking all of these factors into consideration, the savings and process this year feel like a win.


At 2:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keep posting stuff like this i really like it

At 9:19 AM, Blogger Justin said...

Hey, thanks!


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