How has an enclave for kids with crazy hair and goths resisted the retail apocalypse? With merch.
As The New York Times reports, on a recent afternoon, the Hot Topic store at the King of Prussia Mall, outside of Philadelphia, teemed with teenagers, 20-somethings and stroller-pushing parents. The shoppers sifted through racks of “Harry Potter” plush dolls, “Riverdale” sweaters and “Kiki’s Delivery Service” jewelry, seeking the perfect physical manifestation of their—or their child’s—fandom.
Former mall goths, punks and emo kids may remember the store differently. In the ’90s and early aughts, one did not so much enter as descend into Hot Topic. The suburban shopping center staple was dungeonlike, with metal gates that led shoppers into a dark commercial corridor.
It is still dark, but not as dark, and the wares Hot Topic sells has changed drastically. 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.
Though Hot Topic has not publicly disclosed its financials since the private equity firm Sycamore Partners acquired it in June 2013 for about $600 million, the brand’s endurance in the narrowing market of juniors apparel suggests that the brighter, broader inventory is selling.
“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,” MaryLeigh Bliss, the vice president of content at Ypulse says. “They have completely kept up with what young consumers want.” Read the full story.