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Hot Topic Takes On Harry Potter's Dark Side

Even in doing celebrity promotions, Hot Topic keeps its image in mind, picking the bad guy to star in its Harry Potter marketing campaign.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince star Tom Felton introduced an exclusive new line of products at a Hot Topics location in Paramus, N.J. -- a retailing hub amid the New York City suburbs -- that is being launched in conjunction with the movie.

Felton plays Harry's rival Draco Malfoy in the film series and, given the Hot Topic penchant for dark colors and fashions that manifest teenage angst, the choice seems appropriate enough. Felton's visit to the Garden State Plaza store included an autograph signing for 750 fans who purchased a special edition Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince tee shirt, available only at the Paramus location, as well as a public question and answer session. The event was hosted by Hot Topic and Warner Bros. Consumer Products, which promotes the Harry Potter brand in merchandise, and it also publicized the retailer's Potter push, which features store front window displays and in-store boutiques dedicated to the character. At each of the 679 Hot Topic stores across the United States, the windows will advertise and boutiques offer a wide range of Potter paraphernalia including, but not limited to, hoodies, tees, wallets, messenger bags and accessories.

Of course, this isn't Hot Topic's first brush with celebrity. In a South Park episode, a clique of Goths burns down the local Hot Topic to rid the town of vampires. Not real vampires, pardon the contradiction in terms, but local kids who affect vampire style, one the Goths are insulted to find is confused with their own.

Hot Topic could use a boost. On Wednesday, it posted a comparable store sales decline of 7.9 percent for June, which was deeper than analysts expected. The company said that, because of lower sales, it anticipated a larger second-quarter loss of seven cents to nine cents a share compared with its May forecast of four cents to six cents. This after Hot Topic started out the year making gains, with comparable store sales up 7.1 percent and earnings reaching three cents a share in the first quarter after a loss in the previous-year period. As the South Park episode suggested, and satirized, trying keep up with the often passionate fashion preferences of youth isn't easy. Although comps in the men's business at Hot Topic stores advanced by five percent in June, music, women's fashion and accessories slipped by 13 percent, 11 percent and five percent respectively, which pretty much sunk the month. Ironically, the South Park episode featuring Hot Topic took a swipe at the vampire flick Twilight. Observers credited Twilight with boosting sales at Hot Topic, which carried merchandise related to the film while heavily promoting its March DVD release. Certainly, the retailer is hoping that movie wizards can do for it in summer what cinema vampires did as winter turned to spring. Hot Topic carries South Park merchandise, too, but that didn't save its June sales.