It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Hot Topic and have been for years, but there are lots of things I didn’t know about them.
In celebration of their 25th anniversary, they’re doing special promos, they’re asking people to post their goth selfies, they’re sharing their history in photos, and they released a list of 25 Things You (Probably) Don’t Know About Hot Topic. I thought it was a neat bit of trivia, so I share. ;-)
Head after the break to check it out.
- Launched in October, 1989, Hot Topic was originally an accessories store for guys and girls. We noticed the skulls and spikes sold way better than the scrunchies and bolo ties – so we ran with the “alternative” and dropped the “vanilla.” This was our first step to becoming “the Goth store.”
- In Nov. 1989, Hot Topic moved its “headquarters” from the back of a house to the stock room of the Montclair, Calif. store. It was a little cramped, but our buyer got direct input from store associates and customers. We’ve since moved out of the stockroom but our buyers still get input daily from employees and customers.
- In 1990, Hot Topic becomes the first retailer to bring rock tees to the mall – you could only really get them at concerts before then. Our first tees: The Cure, Depeche Mode, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Bauhaus, Metallica and TSOL. We hung them on hangers from the kitchen supply store in the mall!
- After a while, we started displaying our tees on the wall in plexis, creating that rock wall we’re known for. We were the first to do that, and now we have about 250 t-shirt plexis on each store’s walls. And that’s why we’re the destination for music and pop culture merch.
- As we expanded our “alternative” merch offerings, our goal became to open stores in towns without access to downtown alternative stores and music. Turns out, teens started coming in to our stores to learn about alternative bands from our associates. Remember – this is before the Internet!
- We hire all the geeks, weirdos, Goths and rockers we can find. Hot Topic was the first retailer to hire store associates with visible tattoos, piercings and brightly colored hair. It doesn’t matter what you look like, as long as you have a passion for music and pop culture.
- In 1991, we brought “rock fashion” to the mall. This is brands like TRIPP NYC and Lip Service – which you previously could only get on Melrose or in the East Village.
- Goth store? Homey don’t play that. In 1992, we introduced our first licensed character tee: Homey the Clown from In Living Color.
- In 1992 the Hot Topic HQ moved again – to an industrial park in Montclair, Calif. It included a rock & roll cemetery, paying tribute to late rock and roll musicians, plus TVs so we could keep up on music and fashion trends from MTV. (That’s back when they played music videos.)
- In 1993, Hot Topic became the first store in the mall to sell body jewelry. Yep, we scared a lot of parents – and mall developers, too.
- Over the years some people have really thought Hot Topic is “possessed.” There were rumors of bloodletting in our stock room and that our store managers were actual vampires. Some believed Hot Topic employees were required to have piercings. It was so bad we actually had angry people come in to our stores waving bibles and leaving behind religious literature.
- A zillion bands have played private performances at Hot Topic HQ – because we love the music, too. They include: Rob Zombie, Social Distortion, Rancid. Alice Cooper, Steel Panther, Band of Skulls, Silversun Pickups, Suicide Silence, All American Rejects, Pierce the Veil, Echosmith, All Time Low, Plain White Tees, Die Antwoord and Fly Leaf.
- We’ve had bands, film and TV casts and personalities appear at our stores over the years. Some highlights: Marilyn Manson, Weezer, Green Day, The Black Veil Brides, All Time Low, Paramore, Motorhead, Korn and the casts of Alice in Wonderland, Twilight and the Vampire Diaries.
- Before they blew your mind with music, a bunch of band members probably folded some tee shirts. Gerard Way (of My Chemical Romance) worked at one of our stores in NJ. Other bands with former Hot Topic employees: Sleeping With Sirens, Motion City Soundtrack, Chiodos, A Skylit Drive, Atreyu, Memphis May Fire, For Today, Pvris, and The Color Morale.
- At the suggestion of a store employee, the Hot Topic Foundation was established ten years ago. The Foundation has contributed more than $10 million in grants to non-profit organizations that create music and arts programs for young people across the country – at schools and beyond. Just last month we pledged $250,000 to Little Kids Rock and opened a new Notes for Notes Music Studio in L.A.
- The first two employees hired by Hot Topic founder Orv Madden are still with the company today – and more than 370 employees have worked at Hot Topic for longer than ten years. They work in a variety of departments including stores, marketing, merchandising, planning & allocation, finance, loss prevention and more.
- Hot Topic made it to the Fortune “Best Companies to Work For” list in 2004, 2005 and 2006. They liked (in 2004): “Body piercings and spiked hair are common at the music-inspired clothing company.” They also liked that we reimburse our employees for concert tickets.
- One of our lingerie buyers is in a hardcore metal band where she breathes fire. We encourage this behavior – in fact, we give out about five $1,000 band grants to employee bands each year.
- In 2004, someone started a ridiculous rumor that Hot Topic is owned by the Gap. We still get it today. All we can say is: No. Stop that.
- Rock Band 2, released in 2008, offered players a sponsorship by Hot Topic. Players report they lose fans and street cred by accepting the sponsorship. Because: sell-outs. Heh.
- In 2008 the Twilight movie came out and we had the exclusive rights to sell the merch at retail. We did some mall events – and we weren’t prepared for the response. Like – a mall literally had to be shut down. Oops.
- In the Nov., 2008 South Park episode “Ungroundable,” Goth kids from South Park Elementary burn down the local Hot Topic. Why? Because everyone in town is confusing them with the new surge in “vampire kids” And Hot Topic turned those kids into vampires. (Thank you, Twilight.)
- Alice Cooper shops at Hot Topic – a LOT. So we made him an honorary employee – he gets a lifetime employee discount.
- Hot Topic was the first to bring in licensed merchandise for SpongeBob, Pokémon, Twilight, West Coast Choppers, Nightmare Before Christmas, Napoleon Dynamite, Legend of Zelda, Fault in Our Stars, Studio Ghibli and World of Warcraft – plus Care Bears, Strawberry Shortcake and Harry Potter for adults.
- Today, Hot Topic is the #1 retailer in sales of band related apparel and accessories (per NPD for the period between 2010 calendar year through May 2012). Hot Topic is also the #1 specialty retailer in sales of entertainment character apparel and accessories, and #4 overall behind only Walmart, Target and Disney (per NPD and Mintel).
See? Cool right?