I'm not sure when it happened exactly, but lately I feel pretty old when I walk into a Hot Topic
I don't feel any older when I enter an American Eagle Outfitters
In theory, neither specialty retailer wants me anyway. They cater to teens and young adults, even though their offerings couldn't be any more different. Hot Topic's penchant for dark alternative wear and American Eagle's knack for earthy hues are sharp contrasts. Yet each company, like a typical teenager, has had its share of growth spurts and bouts with popularity.
Right now, it seems as though the goths, metalheads, and punk rockers are being outmuscled by the casual, mainstream preppies. Hot Topic suffered a 0.4% dip in same-store sales last month, while American Eagle saw its June comps soar by 8.7%.
For American Eagle, this kind of surge in popularity is a spectacular indicator that the company is going to produce well during the critical back-to-school shopping season that is quickly closing in.
But what can you make of Hot Topic's slide? While the company also produced a 20% uptick in sales last month, that's actually a troubling sign when you consider that the company may be expanding too quickly at a time when its stores may be in need of repair. Sales at the store level have been eroding all year.
The company faults the installation of a new distribution center software program for its inventory shortcomings. When you try to picture that against the chain's anti-establishment theme, it's good for an ironic chuckle or two. But I think I know the real problem here. They forgot to stock the Lemonheads T-shirts!
Are you more likely to be shopping at Hot Topic or at American Eagle? None of the above? What are you wearing right now -- if we may ask? All this and more in the What to Wear? discussion board. Only on Fool.com.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz really will buy that Lemonheads shirt if he ever sees it at a Hot Topic. He does not own shares in any companies mentioned in this story.