Hot Topic is one of the most popular store chains that carries anime and manga merchandise. Is it worth shopping there? Let's take a closer look!

Hot Topic

Overview

Hot Topic was originally known for selling music-related shirts and merchandise. In recent years, they have expanded into pop culture. Hot Topic carries products from movies, TV shows, video games, and, of course, music. Browse their stores in the mall or online and you will find shirts, jewelry, figures, cards, posters, bedding, and a whole lot more. Some items are online-exclusive, and they have even teamed up with companies to release Hot Topic-exclusive merchandise. Hot Topic also has several outlet stores where they sell their closeout merchandise. Shoppers can also earn rewards by joining the Guest List program.

Selection

Hot Topic sells quite a range of products for anime and manga fans. T-shirts, keychains, and lanyards are popular products, but you can often find costumes, figures, hoodies, wallets, throws, and even imported merchandise. Lots of different series are represented, including Attack on Titan, Black Butler, Dragon Ball, Pokemon, Sailor Moon, Tokyo Ghoul, and many more. As you might expect, the most popular properties have the biggest selection. Items from older and/or less popular series can often appear. I was surprised to see a Chobits shirt available for purchase right now. The types of merchandise from the various series also rotate. You might find a lot of wall scrolls from Naruto one month and only a couple the next. New items come in and others are out on clearance.

Hot Topic also sells plus-size clothing, including their anime shirts and hoodies. This is nice since fun plus-size shirts are often hard to find.

But keep in mind that Hot Topic does not do backorders. If an item goes out of stock, it will no longer be able to be ordered until the company has more available. Sometimes it can be frustrating to find a time when everything you want is available.

Pricing

Most items are listed at or slightly above MSRP. The boutique or imported items are likely to be priced higher than elsewhere. This Sailor Moon Proplica Moon Stick, for instance, has an MSRP of $99.99; Hot Topic’s retail price is $120.50. T-shirts generally are around the $20 to $25 mark. Other chains sell graphic shirts for about the same price, so these prices are pretty fair. Plus sizes generally cost a couple of dollars more.

However, Hot Topic constantly has sales. The deals change often (especially online), but there is little need to buy something from Hot Topic at full price. Some sales are better than others, but that applies to most stores.

The promotions offer differ between brick-and-mortar stores and online. For instance, as of this writing, the site is offering 20% off everything with code; stores are having a buy one, get one 30% off event. Pricing can also vary between stores and HotTopic.com. An item may be on clearance at your local Hot Topic but still full price online (or visa-versa). Prices and sales can even vary from store to store. Last year, I went to one Hot Topic that had sales like a buy one, get two free on accessories and shirts starting at $3.99. When I went to my local Hot Topic a few days later, accessories were only buy one, get one free, and the same shirt was $9.99. So if you do have multiple stores in your area, you might want to check out all of them.

One of their most popular promotions is their Hot Cash event. For a period of time, you can earn a coupon for every $30 you spend in a single purchase. Then the coupon can be redeemed during a certain timeframe for $15 off a $30 purchase. If you spend $60 in a transaction, then you’ll earn a $30 off $60, $90 spent earns $45 off $90, and $120 earns a $60 off $120 coupon. Make sure you keep track of when you can redeem your coupon!

If you sign up for emails, Hot Topic sends out quite a few codes. Sometimes they are something like $30 off $75, but they’ve also sent out mystery flash sale emails where you can score up to 50% off your purchase. (Of course, you have to be very lucky to get 50% and not 10 or 20%.) I have also received physical coupons in the mail that can be used at a brick-and-mortar store.

Most of their promotions exclude items like vinyls, CDs, and DVDs.

Guest List

Membership to their Guest List program is free. For every $100 you spend at Hot Topic, you’ll earn a $5 reward. You may also get special offers during your birthday month and throughout the year. If you spend $500, you’ll earn points faster as well as get $2 standard shipping on most orders. ($10 shipping for Alaska and Hawaii residents.) You will get a card when you sign up, and then just show the card when you buy in store or register it to your online account.

Even if you only shop at Hot Topic a couple of times a year, I say you should always join free store loyalty programs. You never know what kind of offers you’ll get.

Payments & Shipping

Hot Topic takes most major debit/credit cards and PayPal.

Standard shipping is $4.99 no matter how large or small your order is for the 48 continental U.S. states. Shipping starts at $23.99 and goes up depending on order total for those living in Alaska and Hawaii. All U.S. residents can choose to ship their items to the nearest Hot Topic for free. The site also occasionally has cheap ($1) or free shipping promotions with online code.

Exchanges & Returns

Clearance merchandise can not be returned or exchanged. For everything else, you can return to store or by mail within 30 days of purchase. If you return by mail, you are responsible for shipping. If you paid with PayPal, you can not return your purchase to store and must contact HotTopic.com’s customer service. While 30 days is pretty common, the forced mail returns for PayPal purchases is much less standard. It’s an unfortunate policy, and so you will probably want to use a credit or debit card instead.

Final Thoughts

The chain carries quite a variety of products. While anime discs and manga volumes can be found on a number of sites, stores selling shirts and other merchandise are much more limited. You also have to be cautious of bootleg and unofficial items on other sites. If you want to add some more official anime-related clothing or accessories to your collection, check out Hot Topic. Just make sure you wait for one of their better sales, and be cautious of their return policy.