Hot Topic

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For the Le Tigre song, see Hot Topic (song).
Hot Topic, Inc.
Industry Retail
Founded 1988 by Orv Madden
Headquarters Industry, California, USA
Number of locations
642 (April 2011)[1]
Key people
Steve Vranes, CEO (2016–present)
Betsy McLaughlin, CEO (2000–2011)
Bruce Quinell, Chairman of the Board
Products clothing, accessories, music
Revenue Increase US$761 million (FY 2009)[2]
Increase US$32.5 million (FY 2009)[2]
Increase US$19.7 million (FY 2009)[2]
Total assets Increase US$371 million (FY 2009)[3]
Total equity Increase US$258 million (FY 2009)[3]
Divisions Blackheart Lingerie
Subsidiaries Torrid, LLC

Hot Topic (typeset as HOT TOPIC) is an American retail chain specializing in alternative culture-related clothing and accessories, as well as licensed music. The majority of the stores are located in regional shopping malls.[4] The first Hot Topic store was opened in 1988 by Orv Madden, who retired as CEO in 2000 and was replaced by Betsy McLaughlin, who headed the company until 2011. Lisa Harper assumed the position of CEO in March 2011 until Steve Vranes was announced as the new CEO in 2016. The company went public and began trading on NASDAQ in 1996. In 2013, Hot Topic announced its sale to private equity firm Sycamore Partners for $600 million.[5]

Product assortment and sales[edit]

Hot Topic at Universal CityWalk in Hollywood, California, displaying the Hot Topic logo used during the peak of the company's popularity.

Approximately 40% of Hot Topic's revenue comes from sales of licensed band T-shirts.[4] Hot Topic often negotiates exclusive licensing arrangements with musical artists, movie studios, and graphic artists.[citation needed]


Hot Topic launched Torrid, a concept store that sells clothing for plus-size women in 2001.[6]

In 2008, Hot Topic launched ShockHound, an online retailer and social networking music site.[7] In March 2011, Hot Topic made a public statement citing the shutdown of ShockHound. The site is no longer live, all merchandise was moved to, and the company ceased sales of MP3s.[8]

In August 2010, Hot Topic opened two new stores in Canada, which also marked the chain's first two international outlets. The first store opened on August 11 at Square One Shopping Centre in Mississauga, Ontario, and then at Scarborough Town Centre in Toronto, Ontario the following day.[9] The company has since also opened additional Ontario locations as well as locations in Puerto Rico.

In 2012, Hot Topic launched Blackheart Lingerie, a concept store that sells lingerie and clothing for women.[10]

On May 26, 2015, Hot Topic announced its intent to acquire Geeknet Inc., owner of the online retailer ThinkGeek, for $122 million. However, the company received a $140 million counter-offer from GameStop, which Hot Topic did not choose to exceed.[11][12][13][14]

On October 14, 2015, Hot Topic launched BoxLunch, a gift and novelty retail store.[15] For every $10 spent, a meal is donated to a person in need.[16]

The store has been through a number of phases in its history, reflective of various alternative culture and pop culture (including geek culture) trends. In the early 2000s, the store was heavily known for marketing nu-metal merchandise related to bands such as Evanescence and Disturbed. During that period, the store was also known for its sales of controversial gel bracelets (often rumored to be "sex bracelets") as well as the equally controversial styles of phat pants-inspired bondage pants popular among teenagers in the late 1990s and early-to-mid 2000s. The store later focused on skinny jeans and merchandise related to scene, emo and hardcore music and fashion. At present, the store's selection is largely focused on licensed video game merchandise and internet memes popular on sites such as tumblr, as well as anime and manga, and the associated otaku subculture.

Tour sponsorship[edit]

The company sponsored the 2004 Ozzfest concert tour,[17] the 2005 through 2007 Sounds of the Underground tour,[18] the 2008 Taste of Chaos tour,[19] and had a stage at and sponsored the 2008 and 2009 Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival tours. The company went on to sponsor Black Veil Brides 2014 Black Mass tour with special guests Falling in Reverse.[20]


  1. ^ Hot Topic, Inc. Reports 1st Quarter Financial Results
  2. ^ a b c Hot Topic (HOTT) annual SEC income statement filing via Wikinvest
  3. ^ a b Hot Topic (HOTT) annual SEC balance sheet filing via Wikinvest
  4. ^ a b "Hot Topic Annual Report 2007" (PDF). Hot Topic, Inc. 2008-04-28. Retrieved 2008-12-09. 
  5. ^ Sycamore Partners to Buy Hot Topic for $600 Million
  6. ^ Harris, Lynn (April 6, 2005). "Living large". Salon. Retrieved February 26, 2014. 
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Hot Topic to open shops in Canada". 2010-06-21. Retrieved 2014-02-26. 
  10. ^ Misener, Jessica (2012-11-01). "Hot Topic Launching 'Blackheart' Lingerie Line For The Romantic Mall-Goth In You". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2014-07-16. 
  11. ^ "Geeknet Gives Hot Topic Three Days to Match Higher Offer". Bloomberg. Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  12. ^ "Hot Topic to Buy Retailer Geeknet Inc.". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 26 May 2015. 
  13. ^ "Geeknet Calls New Takeover Offer Superior to Hot Topic's Bid". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  14. ^ "GameStop outbids Hot Topic for ThinkGeek parent company purchase". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2 June 2015. 
  15. ^ "New BoxLunch Stores To Carry Pop! Vinyls". Pop Vinyls. 2015-10-14. 
  16. ^ "BoxLunch". BoxLunch. 
  17. ^ Ratliff, B (2004-07-16). "Rock Review: Ozzfest Trudges On, Laden With Sponsors and Politics". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-09. 
  18. ^ "Official Website". Sounds of the Underground. Retrieved 2008-12-09. 
  19. ^ Peters, M (2007-12-20). "Avenged Sevenfold, Atreyu Set For Taste Of Chaos". Billboard. 
  20. ^ [1] Archived February 12, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.‹The template Wayback is being considered for merging.› 

External links[edit]