How Hot Topic went from a store in a garage to a growing chain that is defying the retail apocalypse.
- Hot Topic is a teen retailer that has over 670 stores across the US and Canada.
- The company has maintained a strong brick-and-mortar presence as a haven for fandom and niche obsessions, even amid the retail apocalypse and an increase in mall vacancies.
- "We thrive because we are first to recognize current and emerging trends in music and pop culture, and are fast to market to meet our consumers' demands," Steve Vranes, the CEO of Hot Topic since June 2016, told Business Insider.
- Here is the full story of how Hot Topic made it big, from its humble start in a California garage to its soaring presence in malls across the continent.
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Hot Topic is doing the impossible.
In a world of declining mall traffic and increasing vacancies, the brick-and-mortar chain is beating the odds.The company has not publicly disclosed its finances since it was bought by private equity firm Sycamore Partners in 2013 for around $600 million, The New York Times reported. But its over 670 stores across the US and Canada and strong online presence are a testament to the company's strong niche in a temperamental market.
"We thrive because we are first to recognize current and emerging trends in music and pop culture, and are fast to market to meet our consumers' demands," said Steve Vranes, the CEO of Hot Topic since June 2016.
That much is clear upon entry to the store. Hot Topic is a haven for pop-culture addicts and fans, boasting merchandise that runs the gamut from costumes to body piercings. It has a reputation as a brand for punks, but it carries merchandise for consumers with diverse interests. Over 75% of the products at Hot Topic are licensed by intellectual property owners such as entertainment studios, music labels, and music vendors, Vranes explained.
Today, Hot Topic is huge, but the company started small - in a garage in Southern California in 1989. The first store, which opened in Montclair, California, had its headquarters in the store's backroom. Throughout the years, Hot Topic expanded its merchandise, introducing clothing and capitalizing on a growing market for anyone obsessed with anything.
"To our customers, Hot Topic is more than a retailer," said Vranes. "We represent community and self-expression."
Here's the story of how the chain was able to get to where it is today, a store that is constantly adapting to meet the demand for what's hot in the world of fandom.