Entertainment retailer Hastings is extending its footprint in comic books, a segment that has taken on greater importance as its music sales have fallen. In the 12 months ending April 30, Hastings’ music sales were down over 15% while books were down 0.2% and trends (a catch-all category where Hastings will now slot its comic books) was up 6%.

As a Hastings executive told the Bleeding Cool blog, the company is expanding its comic book footprint in 147 stores. About 27 will undergo large expansion to contain 32 feet of new comic releases, 32 feet of back issues, 44 feet of Manga and graphic novels, and an expansion in action figures, role-playing books and accessories.

Of course, like most markets our customers are very “Super-hero” oriented, so most of our selection will be from the two largest publishers in the field. However, we are not ignoring the medium-sized and indie publishers in our selection. Hastings has great relationships with all of the publishers in the industry, from the two biggest publishers to the smaller presses. As for back issues, we have been able to gather several large collections that we can offer for very reasonable prices in all of our stores.

Hastings believes it understands its comic book buyers and can succeed where some non-specialist stores have failed.

One of the first things we did was move our comics and graphic novels from our Book department to our lifestyles department because we felt the customers buying “trends” product (i.e. action figures, collectibles, accessories, etc) in our stores were also the customers who were into comics…We currently offer a “Comic of the Month” program singling out a specific comic each month getting front counter promotion in all of our stores. This becomes an impulse item that people who would normally not buy a comic find themselves picking them up. These comics will gain new readership, regain lapsed readers and solidify current fans. We have also been able to get exclusive variants for our comic of the month which has had great responses from customers.