It appears all things '80s-inspired are trying to creep back into fashion this year, and ever since I heard the news, I've wondered whether some of that decade's punk fashions might follow suit. If so, investors may well wonder whether punk and goth wardrober Hot Topic
A fashion supplement called Fashion Rocks, which recently arrived in my mailbox via snail mail with some Conde Nast publications, caught my eye with a feature exploring punk music and fashion. And I recently saw a USA TODAY article that claimed "new age" punk influences may well be coming back. Accoutrements like fingerless gloves are hitting the shelves once again, with Hot Topic and Urban Outfitters
Given that Hot Topic has been posting gloom-and-doom numbers consistently for a while now, a radical shift in fashion might combine with increased customer traffic and sales -- as well as easy comparisons to past years -- to make the retailer look cool again in coming months.
On the other hand, during fashion phases when punk goes mainstream, there's more competition to provide the goods. Not that I'd expect a great deal of edginess from retailers like J. Crew
I wouldn't be too surprised if any fall resurgence in punk trends among teens turns out to help Hot Topic over the short term (bearing in mind that these would be the types of kids who might go straight back to preppy by spring). And of course, judging by several "How punk are you?" Internet quizzes I found on a lark recently, mall-based Hot Topic seems to be taken about as seriously as Blink-182 on the spectrum of genuine punk-ness. However, such a shift in fashion certainly could increase the customer traffic at Hot Topic.
This brings to mind one of the biggest questions I've had about Hot Topic ever since I learned it existed -- one I consider a long-term issue for the retailer. Can a mall-based punk and goth chain really be considered the "real deal" for kids who are truly into the subculture? I know how punks in my day would have viewed such a mall-based chain retailer, and I've often wondered whether kids have changed that much. Any retailer that's trying to woo youth subculture faces a difficult road when it comes to proving that it's not pandering to poseurs. (Judging by what I've seen of Volcom
I wouldn't be too surprised if Hot Topic might start looking better to investors over the next few months, should punk fashions once again reach the mainstream. But I'd be reluctant to think the turnaround would be anything less than risky, since fickle fashion will shift again.
For more on Hot Topic, see the following Foolish articles:
- Jeremy McNealy heads up a Folly Volley on Hot Topic.
- Last quarter, HOTT was still not.
- Gloom's okay for Hot Topic's clothes, but not for its outlook.