As a kid growing up there was a 7-11, a local gas station/convienience store and a drug store selling comics, I presume Newsstand editions. That was just in my one small country town with similar distribution through all the towns in the area.
Those were the days, huh?
From the 90's to now I don't know of anywhere between Richmond and Lynchburg selling comics. That's a rather huge area. Humongous even. I wasn't even sure they were still being produced and I still can't wrap my head around how they could possibly be selling more now with such limited distribution as they did back then with a spin rack everywhere you shopped. Entire generations of children are now growing up never even seeing a comic book or at least not seeing any that aren't old and tattered. If you don't have a family member wanting to take you into the big city to one of the few B&M's still in existence you'd never have exposure to them.
After the posts I wrote yesterday, I recalled a few isolated events pertaining to newsstand comics between 1982 and 2012.
In 1983, Thor 337 (Walter Simonson's first issue as writer and full artist) was published, and in comics shops locally, demand instantly outweighed supply. Comics were still widely available in traditional outlets (they tended to arrive 3–4 weeks later), and I recall that one local collector bought every Thor 337 he could find from traditional newsstand outlets.
In 1991, the publisher Harvey revived Tom & Jerry in a handful of titles. In the fine print of the solicitations, I found that these comics were going to include reprints of MGM-character stories by the great Carl Barks. I am a Barks fan, so I made a mental note to buy them. When the time came for them to be published, they didn't show up at my LCS (I guess the owner didn't read the fine print). I wasn't going to miss those comics, so I started checking local newsstand outlets. I found them, IIRC, in a local grocery store. I am pleased that the copies in my collection now are newsstand copies.
After the Jurassic Park movie, Topps published a series of mini-series adapting and extending the movie story. Some of these featured scripts by Steve Englehart, a favorite of mine. In 1995, these Englehart-written stories were reprinted in the title Return to Jurassic Park. Even though I had the original printings of the stories, as an Englehart fan, I also wanted the reprints. Apparently because the comics were reprints, my LCS didn't order any copies. Once again, I resorted to traditional outlets. This time, I found the comics in a locally owned bookstore (the big national chains had not yet come to town). Once again, I am pleased that the copies in my collection are newsstand copies.
So, as late as 1995, I can testify that newsstand comics were available locally. From conversations with dealers, it's my impression that throughout the 1990s, newsstand copies were available in WaldenBooks and B Dalton's, and into the 2000s in Borders bookstores.
I don't believe comics are selling more units now than they did in the heyday of newsstand distribution. Sales per issue these days tend to be in the tens of thousands, maybe cracking 100,000 for a heavily promoted event. Back in the 1970s, I remember looking at sales figures in Statements of Ownership. Flagship titles tended to sell around 250,000 per issue, and titles sinking toward 100,000 were often canceled. I think what saves the industry now, with lower sales, are: (1) per-issue prices that have grown faster than inflation, (2) efficiency of distribution (specifically, non-returnability of unsold copies), and (3) licensing fees, particularly from Hollywood movie studios.
I can see there being a shortage of high grade Newsstands from the 80's and feel free to blame me since I'm one of the one's who thumbed every corner of every book in every pouch on the spin rack trying to make sure I didn't miss any and even trying to hide a last copy of something in a less obvious spot until I could go walk a dog or cut some grass to get another 40 cent to buy it.
Those spinner racks certainly weren't designed to preserve the comics in NM condition. I think minimization of floor space was the idea back then. Still, pleasant memories, huh?