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Monday, 6 December 2010

The end of Hot Topic?

I've never been to America. So when I first found out (via the internets, of course) that America has an actual chain of Goth-friendly shops in almost every single one of its malls, I was actually quite thrilled. Now, I know that most Ameri-Goths think of the fabled Hot Topic as poseur's heaven, but for those of us who live in Suburbia, England, the thought of being able to walk into any given shopping centre and buy Gothic Beauty (instead of paying a huge amount of postage to have it air-mailed), Bauhaus T-shirts (surprisingly scarce around here, considering they were an ENGLISH band), and BEGoth dolls filled me with excitement and squee-ings. But, poseur-ish or not, Hot Topic may not be around - at least, not in its current Gothy incarnation - for very much longer.

I recently read online that before the massive surge in profits created by Twilight merchandise (hands up, who's starting to get sick of seeing Edward's caveman-esque visage EVERYWHERE, ALL THE TIME?) Hot Topic was struggling to keep afloat. I guess even the combined spending power of mallgoths, ravers, emos and scene kids wasn't enough to keep it going. Of course, back in the days when HT was reasonably new, Goth was still the only port of call for 'rebellious' teens wanting to shock their parents, but with the emergence of emo as a fashion trend (quickly followed by scene), HT must have had to diversify (and dilute?) its range. And surely skinny jeans in bright colours can't be priced as high as brocade corsets and velvet dresses. I remember visiting the HT website a year or so back and struggling to find a single piece of clothing that wasn't a) Spongebob, b) obnoxiously bright or c) all of the above. I thought then that it could be the beginning of the end.

I quote: "Over the past decade, Hot Topic's customer base has dwindled. The chain had carved out a niche for itself in the mall as the store for goths, loosely defined as anemic teenagers who dressed in black and listened to The Cure. It sold music, clothes, cheap accessories, and the idea that shopping at a national chain store in a suburban shopping mall could still be rebellious, so long as they turned the stereo up loud enough. It was the store that employed pierced young people, perhaps with dangerous-looking tattoos, who my mom was afraid to talk to. Then fickle teenagers began gravitating toward more preppy styles, like Juicy Couture sweatsuits, or urban apparel such as designer sneakers. The economy boomed, and fashion felt flush. Hot Topic sales slumped, even losing money during some quarters. The chain tried to turn the tide by hiring young buyers to troll rock clubs for the latest styles, the newest bands. It offered up its stores as a performance space for local musicians. It painted the walls a lighter color in an effort to dispel its dark image. Nobody really noticed." (From How The Twilight Franchise Saved Hot Topic.)

And then a recent news article (which I haven't been able to find since) claimed that HT has 'promised' to do away with its dwindling Goth clothing ranges, and become a mainstream store.

Now, I'm sure many of you are reading this and thinking variations on 'thank God, it's about time. Now angsty pre-teens won't be able to buy their HT-branded Goth-In-A-Box kits and might have to actually put some thought into their Goth look'. But hold your horses. If Goth is no longer an 'easy option' for teen rebels, then mallgoth populations will also dwindle. Still no bad thing? Well, we were all mallgoths once (yikes!), but, like so many of the Hot Topic babygoths, we grew up, discovered 'Real Goth (TM)', and so the Goth scene grew bigger and continued to thrive. Without a continuing supply of babybats in swirly eyeliner, will the subculture continue to grow - or will it die out?

Plus, the mainstream shows its appreciation (and slowly-growing acceptance) by attempts to imitate and assimilate. Without Hot Topic's Goth image, our scene stands to lose a large part of the mainstream acceptance it has begun to gain.

However, since HT has been suffering a drop in mallgoths bringing their pocket money to spend, perhaps the black-clad Mansonite herd have simply taken their custom elsewhere. The Goth subculture thrived in the 80s without even a sniff of commercial acceptance - perhaps it would be no bad thing if we had to do so again.

Listening to: Get Fucked - Raggedy Angry

14 comments:

OpiateVampire said...

Ah, Hot Topic. I used to work there, and it was actually pretty awesome. You get a 40% employee discount and they compensated me for my concert tickets! But even by the time I started working there, it was definitely going down hill. I loved my coworkers and manager, but most of the clientele had changed by then, so I had the deal with regular "mall people" customers.
Ah, I remember the first time years ago I walked into one and was awe-struck by the blackness (of course, I was also an impressionable 13 year old).
At this point, I think it's time for them to go.

Stefanie said...

I think you might be right, they used to have a pretty decent Goth range called Dark Street but I went on the website today and where they may have been 20+ Gothic dresses before there are a lot less and the majority in the category I wouldn't class as Goth.

MissGracie said...

The reason I dislike Hot Topic is because the clothing is not great quality and costs a lot. I wouldn't mind paying those prices if the stuff didn't fall apart... Also, at least in my area, it's pretty easy for people to steal from those stores, which is probably one reason why they don't do so well.

Anonymous said...

I knew something was up when I saw Justin Bieber's face plastered all over everything in the store. Sad day. I was one of the few American goths who didn't shun and abhore HT because of its poser image. I don't like ordering every single thing online, and I suck at DIY. I just do. It's pretty sad.
However, believe it or not, Forever 21 (particularly the bigger ones) carries a lot, and I mean a LOT of goth-friendly clothes. For people with an ecclectic sense of style and some creativity with outfits, it's shopper Heaven. I spend so much money there it's not even funny. Fortunately, prices there are much more reasonable than Hot Topic ever was. The only problem is that, because the stuff is so cheap, it may or may not be of the best quality. Still, they have some drool-worthy pieces, especially for casual, everyday wear. I even found a freaking BAUHAUS t-shirt in the men's section! O.o

Mo said...

Hot Topic must of had it's "Goth" phase before I even knew what Goth was, because there's one in the mall closet to me and its emo/scene heaven. The only time I will buy from there is for Manic Panic hair dye for my boyfriend and the occasional eyeliner.

NephaeliaVonDaemonen said...

When I was a mallgoth a couple years ago (what an embarrassing time -_-), I think Hot Topic was beginning to become more and more mainstream, but it still sold some good (looking back now, not just "good" to my former mallgoth self) stuff. Now I go in there, and it's kind of ridiculous. It sells mainly scene/emo stuff and mainstream stuff, and the motto USED to be "everything about the music" but now they only carry popular mainstream and emo/scene type music, and the lack of bands-that-I -actually-like t-shirts is saddening. I know it was never a really good goth store, but I HATE ordering online and it's nice to go somewhere that sells clothes you like, if only just to hang out there when you're bored XD (Yes, I'm very guilty of doing that in Hot Topic... :P) But, I like the people who work in my local Hot Topic, they're friendly and I like talking to them randomly. I'm pretty sure it's just that one Hot Topic though, because the workers in other ones seem a bit bitchy at times.
Maybe it WAS just because I was a mallgoth at the time, but I have fond memories of the old Hot Topic.. I'm sad to see it go [extremely] mainstream. They don't carry white face powder or black lipstick anymore, which I know are huge poser items but I like them occasionally, with the proper outfit and such... Luckily they still carry red eyeliner/eyeshadow.
Oh whatever, their prices are ridiculous anyhow. I shouldn't be so saddened by their disappearance. Bye bye Hot Topic.

Anonymous said...

Hot Topic has definitely become a disappointment. :c
Albeit, I do shop there every once in a while for Invader Zim shirts, (I also bought a Squee shirt from there that I wear a lot, but the quality isn't good, so that's irritating... Or some monstrous creature got loose in my closet, tearing UNWANTED holes in my clothes) and some accessories, but once I started seeing Justin Bieber and Ke$ha and Lil Wayne in Hot Topic, that's when my "Whatthefuckisthismadness?!" face broke loose. :I

AdamAfterMidnight said...

The Hot Topic in my mall just closed, while it was overpriced and cheap quality, it did suck a lot less than the mainstream stores like Hollister or what have you. Now the former HT is some crappy store called "344 Warehouse store", which does NOT sell warehouses :P, it sells crappy knock off soccer mom handbag and junk. Hot Topic might have sucked, but it didn't deserve to be replaced by THIS!

Leia said...

ahh hottopic it used to be my favorite store a couple years back, that is however until it started getting more and more mainstream i think its really sad that a once awesome store has become such a sellout last time i went there i saw a justin bieber shirt. enough said. anyways i do feel bad that they had to do such things to keep profits up.

Tenebris In Lux said...

Ah, yes, the Hot Topic in my mall closed, too. I'm not sure if this is also an American store of not, but another alternative-ish store called Off The Wall also closed in my mall. Most of the people that go to the mall in my town are the polo-shirt-wearing types anyway -_-

I also heard of news that the HT founder was thinking about having the wares go "darker" and "less mainstream" again. Sounds interesting, but if they DO end up doing this, wouldn't it hurt them more due to the less mainstream factor? I bet it's a roller coaster for the business at the time ..

I also met some okay (not mall goth) alternative-ish people at HT (the workers there). I felt a little bad for them.

Mal. said...

Hot Topic....Yep they opened in the 90's while I was in high school. It was the first time I didn't have to troll the Uni student grotto for good cloths. Every Week I would go there and get 1 to 4 things. Amy brown t-shirts, 80's teen movies t-shirts, pants, and once a Gelfling doll from the Dark Crystal for a friend. Then around 2006 or 2007 it remodeled and went bright neon 80's half punk. I go in every 6 months or so now and never find a damn thing but disgust that the only place on is going to find the true spectrum of goth is in a few little shops down by the university, but only if their parents will let them go. So now I spend the money on iTunes instead.
P.S. I really miss the Amy Brown t-shirts.

Mal. said...

Oh...I forgot. On Jan 9th. I went to the SF Bay area to visit a sister. We went to Berkeley and the UC area. Mali showed me this shop http://www.darkentry.com/
It was a bit cluttered, but was a hybrid of the good ole Hot Topic and a local stripper store called 'Stomps and Threads'. I fell in love and cursed that I had no money. sag

Anonymous said...

I guess goth kids who, like me live in south Manchester are pretty lucky ,what with afflecks palace and such.

Elydia vampheart said...

Yeah, I remember Hot Topic is was a nice store it did have well loved goth brands like Tripp or Hell Bunny. But now that scene and emo have in a way become somewhat populair in mainstream Hot Topic then became a place for scenish and emoish fashion and screamo music.

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