On May 22, ICv2 reported that Trans World Entertainment posted a $2.8 million profit for its first fiscal quarter. This is a massive improvement over the same period last year, in which Trans World posted a $2.5 million loss. The company returned to profitability last year, after five consecutive years of losses.
“Same store sales,” or the comparison of annual sales on a store-by-store basis, were up 6% last year. In addition, “trend” sales, or the sales of licensed goods like manga and comics, rose by 15%. Overall sales across the chain were down by 15% in the chain, and the profits were able to be attained by the company’s shedding of 15% of its total retail stores.
“Why is this important,” you must be asking. Well, dear reader, depending on your age or your time in the anime industry. Trans World Entertainment is the parent company of both Suncoast Video and FYE. Overall, the company owns 500 stores between the two brands.
Before you begin asking “So what,” I’d like to make it known that FYE and Suncoast were both bastions of the anime industry for a number of years. The company’s insistence on retaining deep stock on anime products often made the location a popular choice for anime fans before Amazon and TRSI were household names. They offered instant gratification… at a price.
Over the years, the company pushed customers away due to their requirements to sell items at retail price. As frontiers opened and prices dropped, the market flocked to places where their dollars could go further. In an economic downturn, this is a particularly rough situation to be in. This would be something a company would be able to weather, given enough capital. However, in 2006, the company completed a purchase of the bankrupt Musicland Group. With this came 400 new retail locations (of which they kept 345), and just as many new expenses to worry about.
As the economic downturns worsened and purse-strings continued to tighten, the company scrambled to remain near the break-even point, let alone profitability. People claimed that it was inevitable. They argued that packaged media was dead in the era of the iPod and Netflix. Trans World was to fade away as a relic, a curiosity that would not last to 2010.
“What does this have to do with us?”
Glad you asked, dear reader! Frankly speaking, FYE is still a buyer of anime. Yes, the average FYE store is a chilling reminder of the bubble, with dozens of unsold singles from across the decade. And yes, each is often affixed with a red “Sale” tag that denotes a final grasp toward a customer’s hands. However, they are one of few locations that stocks new titles in a brick and mortar section, and even fewer that hasn’t dropped their overall stock. They are one of few locations that offer instant gratification for the hobby, and a potential gateway for new customers.
To see the company grow once again is encouraging. The fact that a leaner approach is allowing the company to once again eke ahead bodes well for the coming months. However, I am curious to see just how their overall sales break down. Currently, sources only highlight same-store and trend sales, so it’s hard to say just where the company has grown, and what sectors are flagging.