Enlarge Photo Credit: Robert Wright for The New York Times

Thought Hot Topic Was Dead? Nope, It’s Thriving, Says New York Times Report


Alternative retail outlet Hot Topic, once a bastion of metal culture, has fallen out of the consciousness of our scene in recent years. Sure, we’ve all grown up now and that’s certainly a part of it, but there was a day when Hot Topic was everywhere, a sponsor of massive tours like Ozzfest, purveyor of controversial Cradle of Filth t-shirts, selling exclusive editions of metal albums and the like — whether you were shopping there yourself or making fun of the wannabe goth kids who did, it was always in the conversation.

So you could be forgiven for thinking, as I did, that Hot Topic had fallen on rough times, or had maybe even disappeared entirely.

But not so! Far from it. According to this report in The New York Times, Hot Topic is thriving even in spite of the dire retail environment (especially in malls) in America today, thanks to a re-branding effort and a shift in the kinds of items they sell. While the chain — which ditched its iconic, angular, red logo (above) in favor of a light palette, block letter design more akin to Abercrombie — still stocks rock merch, it has pivoted and expanded into carrying items from all corners of alt culture, as the Times explains: “There’s merch for die-hard fans of BTS, Billie Eilish and Black Sabbath stocked alongside collectibles designed for those who love My Little Pony, Care Bears and the Disney princesses. They’ve even turned the lights up a bit.” BTS is a massively popular Korean boy band, and Billie Eilish is a pop singer of the moment, in case you didn’t know.

Hot Topic is a privately owned company, and as such hasn’t disclosed its financials. But the firm Sycamore Partners acquired the brand in June 2013 for about $600 million, which should give you some idea of its value. The chain currently operates 676 stores in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico, up from 662 locations in 2014, and its online business is thriving, offering hundreds of items not available in the stores.

Industry experts have credited the brand’s ability to evolve with youth culture as the key to its success:

“In a 2018 report, the youth marketing research firm YPulse found that Gen Z and millennial shoppers deemed Hot Topic the top retail destination for ‘unique styles,’ with Nike coming in second.

“’What Hot Topic has managed to do really amazingly — and quietly — is to pivot their products and their brand perception to cater to the next generation and what they’re most interested in,’ said MaryLeigh Bliss, the vice president of content at Ypulse. ‘They have completely kept up with what young consumers want.’”

Read the full report at The New York Times, and pick me up a siqq new chain wallet while you’re at it.

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