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Hot Topic loses goth vibe to widen its customer base

Hot Topic, once the go-to shop for all things metal and punk, is abandoning its dark gothic store design in a bid to appeal to a new teen base and regain its former glory as a cool alternative tween and teen apparel chain. In place of the industrial décor and foreboding gates installed during the early '90s, and the underground club-ish tunnel entrance and black walls that followed later on in the decade, the company is making over its stores again. But this time, the end goal is an airier, vintage aesthetic reminiscent of a downtown indie record store in an old century building.
August 1, 2007

Hot Topic, once the go-to shop for all things metal and punk, is abandoning its dark gothic store design in a bid to appeal to a new teen base and regain its former glory as a cool alternative tween and teen apparel chain. In place of the industrial décor and foreboding gates installed during the early ’90s, and the underground club-ish tunnel entrance and black walls that followed later on in the decade, the company is making over its stores again. But this time, the end goal is an airier, vintage aesthetic reminiscent of a downtown indie record store in an old century building.

Darrell Kinsley, the chain’s VP of visual marketing and store design, says the catalyst behind the redesign was to create a shopping environment more in line with today’s eclectic youth music culture, while still staying edgy. ‘We’re responding to the fact that teens have a variety of music on their iPods,’ he explains. ‘We’re finding there’s no longer this kid who just likes punk rock or metal or gothic music.’ So the revamped, gritty-chic stores will sport a more neutral design palette that doesn’t reflect just one genre of music, but a larger, more inclusive alternative scene. Kinsley says the redesign won’t affect the chain’s merchandise, which he says will continue to tie in with the latest trends in fashion and music.

In keeping with the indie record store vibe, Kinsley says the new design incorporates a more defined space for music. The stores will have a CD area with touch-screen listening stations, a large marquee announcing new releases and music events, a 42-inch flat screen TV in the front window that acts as a dynamic store sign drawing people in, and more merchandise in the front of the shop.

Roughly 40 of Hot Topic’s 700-odd locations have already been transformed, and the retailer plans to change over 60 to 80 more stores by the end of the year.

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