If you Google “BoxLunch,” the slogan “Get Some, Give Back,” is one of the first things you’ll see. It’s right at the top, next to the store’s name in the first search result. Philanthropy may not be the first thing you associate with geeky merch, but that is the entire foundation of the BoxLunch brand.
Hot Topic launched BoxLunch back in 2015, offering gifts and other merchandise inspired by fandoms ranging from Harry Potter, Marvel, and Disney to classic TV shows, anime, cartoons, and video games. But having a positive social impact was part of the BoxLunch business model from day one, according to Robert Thomsen, vice president of merchandising and marketing at BoxLunch. “Looking to give back in a more dynamic way, we chose to forgo the traditional charitable model and instead we tried to integrate giving into the BoxLunch DNA,” he says.
The company accomplished this by making a pledge: Every time a customer spends $10 at BoxLunch — in person or online — the store donates a meal to someone in need, thanks to a partnership with Feeding America. To date, the year-round #GetSomeGiveBack campaign has provided more than 50 million meals nationwide.
Andy Wilson, chief development officer at Feeding America, calls this a “truly amazing accomplishment [that] has made a difference for people in need across the country.” Feeding America has a network of more than 200 food banks, which BoxLunch’s brick-and-mortar locations work with on a local level. This April, for National Volunteer Month, Box Lunch employees spent time at Feeding America food banks, sorting food and packing meal kits.
According to Christopher Duran, brand marketing and PR specialist for BoxLunch, this speaks to the company’s purpose to inspire and innovate. “We believe that our customers share the philanthropic spirit our brand carries, as we would not have passed this milestone so quickly in the short four years we have existed [if they didn’t],” he says.
Those core customers are primarily millennials and older adults. The store appeals to this specific demographic and sets itself apart from other pop culture retailers by dropping full collections that go beyond apparel.
“The BoxLunch customer appreciates being offered more than just a tee from their favorite properties,” Duran says. These collections typically span a variety of categories, including apparel, accessories, home goods, pet products, and collectibles.
BoxLunch also keeps the preferences of its primary demographic in mind when choosing and designing products, aiming for what Duran calls an “elevated aesthetic.”
“You’ll see designs that feature more subtle references to their licenses versus large graphics and loud color palettes,” he says. “We also lean into classic artwork for our designs, since we know our customer appreciates the retro look.”
One example of this is the company’s new Maleficent collection (pictured above). The included products are inspired by the character’s original, animated form, not Angelina Jolie’s live-action portrayal in the upcoming Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.
Looking even further into the future, BoxLunch also plans to round out its holiday offerings with an expanded selection of ugly sweaters, along with new collections inspired by Frozen 2 and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
BoxLunch itself continues to expand, as well. At the end of last year, there were 114 locations in the U.S., and by the end of this year, there will be more than 140 locations in 37 states. As it grows, BoxLunch plans to provide more communities not only with unique geeky goods, but also with support and action to end hunger.
“The desire for the most innovative pop culture products and paying it forward has accelerated our growth beyond expectations,” Thomsen says. “We are just getting started as we explore more ways to make positive change.”
This article was originally published in the Pop Insider’s Fall 2019 Issue No. 5, click here to read more!