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What's in store for the Disney Stores

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What's in store for the Disney Stores

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It's been kind of a tough week for Disneyana fans. Given that -- all over the country -- Disney Stores are shutting down. Rockford, IL. Naples, FL. Four stores in Michigan. 6 in Missouri. 9 in New York State. A whopping 16 stores closing in Pennsylvania.

All told, 98 Disney Stores in the U.S. will be closing / have already closed this week. Plus three more stores in Canada. Bringing this once seemingly ubiquitous retail chain down from its one-time high of 693 stores to just 220.

But the good news is ... Disney Consumer Products has big plans for this recently reacquired asset. Following this (hopefully) final round of liquidation & restructuring, Mouse House officials hope that this once-ridiculously-profitable retail chain (Disney used to boast that it averaged merchandise sales of $600 per square foot of selling space at these shops. Which was better than twice the industry average for a specialty retailer) is just the right size now for a relaunch.

I'll say this much. Based on comments that Andrew Mooney (i.e. Chairman of Disney Consumer Products) made earlier this month at the Licensing International Expo 2008, the company is definitely hoping that the coming scarcity of Disney Stores will help reignite the public's interest in shopping at this chain.

"Previously, we just had too many stores," Mooney admitted. "In the Buffalo area alone, we had 7 Disney Stores. Which is 6 too many to my way of thinking. We want these Stores to seem special and unique again. Which is why we have no plans at this time to add any new units to the chain."

Andrew Mooney speaking at the 2008 Licensing International Expo.
Photo by Jeff Lange

If anything, following this month's massive round of closings, Disney Consumer Products may then go on to shutter additional stores in North America while it then opens new units in other parts of the U.S. And Canada. As the Mouse struggles to find the best possible location for each unit of this retail chain.

As for an actual business plan for the Disney Stores ... Well, DCP insiders that I spoke with this week kept referencing "Back to the Future." As in: The key to the Disney Store's future success is to embrace the way that this retail chain used to be run back in the mid-1990s. Back when DS Cast Members were being encouraged to embrace the MAGIC Guest Service program. As in:

  • Maintain Your Presence
  • Assess Your Guest
  • Greet Your Guest
  • Individualize Service
  • Conclude

In short, Disney Consumer Products is looking for a return of the sort of the Guest Service that the Disney Stores used to have. Back when the store's employees were actively encouraged to exceed Guests expectations. Rather than just push the plush.

If the folks at Disney Consumer Products are right and the combination of far fewer stores & better Guest Service then results in a real revival of this retail chain ... Well, this could have a huge impact on the Walt Disney Company's bottom line. Let's remember that -- back in the day -- the typical Guest was a repeat customer, someone who shopped at their local Disney Store (on average) once a month. With a quarter of those customers shopping far more frequently, visiting their local Disney Store 20 times a year.

Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

I know, I know. We're suddenly getting into specifics here. That's because one of my DCP sources slipped me some documents that reveal what a goldmine the Disney Stores used to be for the company back in the early 1990s. Back before Mickey got greedy and tried to open a unit of this retail chain in every single mall in North America. Back in the day, the Disney Stores had real customer loyalty. With ...

" ... 75% of (our customers rating) our Guest Service as superior to the best practices of other retailers, including premier retailers such as Nordstrom, The Gap and Macy's."

More to the point, the Mouse knew exactly who their best customers were back then. To be specific, she was ...

" ... a middle to upper income female who is between the ages of 25 to 35 years old. Additionally, she is predominantly a mother of young children, mostly under the age of 12."

Disney Consumer Products is hoping that the newly downsized Disney Store chain will be able to recapture that sort of brand / customer loyalty by insisting that the Cast Members who still work at the remaining North American stores undergo retraining that stressed product knowledge as well as greater Guest Service.

"Our ultimate goal here is that the Disney Store will be different from all the other stores at the mall," Mooney continued. "That it once again will have a uniqueness and a specialness."

Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

Unfortunately, the only way to achieve uniqueness & specialness in today's marketplace is to actively cut back of the number of Disney Stores that you find in North America. Which brings us back to this week's closings.

So my apologies if you're a Disneyana fan who lives out in Palm Springs or Davenport or Toronto. I know it's gotta be tough to have your local Disney Store shutter.

But if you can just look at the bigger picture here ... With far fewer units in this retail chain and a renewed emphasis on Guest Service, the Disney Stores that remain open will now seem like that far more special places to shop.

That is -- of course -- if you can actually afford the gas that you'll now need to drive on out to the other Mall.

But what do you folks think? Has Disney Consumer Products actually come up with a workable plan here to revive this retail chain? Here on in, will the relative scarcity of Disney Stores drive up demand for the sorts of goods sold here and -- by proxy -- change the public's perception of these once-'way-too-easy-to-find shops?

Your thoughts?

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  • First off... I understand that the market was over saturated with stores, but I think that they are cutting too much. (There isnt even a store in Buffalo anymore - you have to go to Syracuse) Which is horrible for me as I live in Ontario. We used to go to the Disney store in Buffalo to purchase Disney dollars for our kids before we went on a trip. Syracuse is a 5 hour drive.... just not worth it with the gas prices. No you cant get Disney dollars in Canada.

    That said, I would really like to see the remaining Disney Stores provide more than the crap plush and crap plastic cups... I would like to see some of the more adult items come back into the store. Some nice jewlery, watches, ties etc... not the whole store mind you but stuff that you can buy that didnt scream MICKEY at you but were nice enough for everyday use.

    Make the Disney store a destination... just one that you can get too.

  • I think DCP is on the right track but their are some key features that disney needs to look at:

    Product: they need to include all lines of business within the Disney stores. Mainly today we find plush, toys, accessories and wearables all targeted to the young ones. I think DCP needs to bring back some of the high end collectables, prints, ceramic, special edition, home goods and furniture (like we use to see on Disney Direct) books, videos, games, etc. They need to include of LOBs within this one store to target all costumers.

    Number of Stores: Completely agree with what DCP is doing, make them speciality shops once again. Make them more magical

    Atmospherics: Take note of the above comment, and go back to the Original look of the stores. What made me shop one of the first store we use to have in Indiana was the over all look, I felt like I was at WDW or Disneyland. It felt like something magical was happening in the store. It was right out of Fantasyland. Now we have these modern, less is more, run of the mill, cheap toys-r-us looking stores. It's time to rebrand the entire store.

    Guest Service: I agree with DCP making staff go back and learn the art of costumer service. You know that feeling you get when you go to the parks and you're checking in and they say welcome home...that's the feeling I use to get when going into the Disney stores. On my last visit to a Disney Store (last week to check out the   less than stellar Wall•e line) I wasn't greeted at all by anyone. So much for the 29 year old demographic.

    Specialty Events: I would like to see the Disney Stores try to host special events. For example: Why not partner up with WDI and Disney Editions and when the release of Walt Disney's Legends of Imagineering and the Genesis of the Disney Theme Park book is release, build up some other merchandise that reflects WDI and the parks, include the Imagineering the Magic DVD that came out and hold a meet-n-greet with some Imagineers.

    This same concept could be used to develop tons of programs and properties.  Think of home many singers would go to certain Virgin Mega stores and do signings and sing? Why not create some magic by doing the same at various Disney Stores.

    I think DCP is on the right track, lets just hope they're covering all the basis.

  • I'm hoping for a real revival of The Disney Stores -- and think that reducing the number of stores will be good. That said, I think it's far more important to bring back nicer items (not plush/beanies) and clothes that appealed to the adult collectors.

    I will note, with sadness, that I think the company is making a mistake closing its San Francisco Union Square/Post Street Street store with no other replacement planned for the city. I remember the glory days when Disney had two successful stores in S.F. -- the Post Street store (which carried a number of higher-end "Disney Gallery" items) and one at Pier 39. Both stores attracted city residents as well as visitors.

  • I agree with all of your comments, but I work at one of the few remaining stores and we are hearing there will be very few adult merchandise and the focus will be on the popular brands. High School Musical, Camp Rock, Pirates, Toy Story, Cars, etc. Back in the early 90's the store was run as a small dept store, with childrens, adult, home, media, all having separate sections within the store. I don't understand why they can't focus on that and recreate the success they had then.

  • Let's face it:  it's not just the quantity of the stores, it's the quality of the merchandise.  While I agree they had too many stores, and applaud what they're doing in reducing the number, I hear nothing about plans to improve the items the remaining stores will offer.  They CMs might be well trained and provide great guest service, but if they don't have merchandise worth selling, the revival of The Disney Store is bound to fail.

  • I'm just reeling with tension over whether my city's Disney Store is one of the three Canadian locations to go... I'd imagine so, but I need to know so I can swoop in at just the right time to be a vulture and grab the few things they sell right now that I'd actually want.

    I remember when it first opened (at a location that is now closed) and it was pretty exciting. It was THE place to go for video... I finally got that "Legend of Sleepy Hollow" VHS... and just about anything else that was pretty cool, like Haunted Mansion merchandise. Now I grant I'm not as interested in pirates costumes and fairy figures, so it's lost a little of the gloss.

  • I have to agree with what most everyone's saying so far about the Stores.  I have no problem with the Disney Stores cutting back on the number of stores and trying to revive a good Disneyesque and customer-oriented spirit in the CMs - frankly, opening a store in every mall and emphasizing pushing the junk over good customer service were two big mistakes on Mickey's part.

    Hopefully, Disney will correct the third problem - namely, an over-emphasis on not-so-cheap junk that's indistingusihable from the consumer items available through every other retail store. Alas, I'm not hopeful about this based on some of the comments I've heard already. Jim mentioned on the Magical Definition Podcast that DCP has no plans to offer more product geared toward the hardcore fans and the collectors.  I guess they figure that the sales don't justify trying to satisfy those audiences.

    It sounds like we're most likely to see the same old stuff with perhaps a little more emphasis on product and promotion tied in to the latest hit movie or TV show.

    If that'll be the case, I might drop in to my local Disney Store (whichever one's still open) a little more often to check out what's going on, but it doesn't sound like I'm going to be any more likely to buy anything.    

  • I hope they bring back the collectibles... especially if they want to attract the adult dollar again.

  • Jim mentioned that they're going to be closing 6 Missouri Disney Store locations--according to the Disney Store Website, there are only 2 Disney Store locations in Missouri, both in Branson.  Maybe they've already updated the website to reflect these changes, but I can't imagine that.  So, just wanted to point out that it might be difficult to close 6 stores if only 2 exist.  ;)

    I completely agree with Barbee--cutting back is great, but if they do close down the 2 remaining stores here in Missouri, that will mean I have to go all the way to another state to shop.  That doesn't seem like "creating a destination" to me, because I can't imagine traveling that far.  It just seems like cutting off potential customers.

  • It doesn't seem they're not cutting back as severely as FAO Schwartz did when they closed all their stores, remodelled Vegas and 5th Ave and just keep to those 2 spots, catalog and website sales.

  • The problem with the Disney stores isn't that they had too many, its that they sold too much junk and that they completely dropped the adult market. Face it, if you want Disney stuff that your kids will outgrow in 6 months you can go to any Wal-mart. Disney stores used to carry stuff that was unique or could only be found at the parks. Adult clothing, art and collectibles, Disney at home stuff. Now all you can find is princess, pirates, pooh and plush. I'm a Disney-junkie, but I've given up on the Disney stores--I just save my money for the annual trip to WDW. I wouldn't even notice if the Vancouver store disappeared.

  • Disney is heading in the right direction, but I still think that 200+ stores are still too many.

    Disney has to decide what it wants the stores to be.

    In the old days (late 80s, early 90s) when the stores first opened, they had high quality merchandise at high prices. Then later, they had low quality merchandise at even higher prices. When Children's Place bought them, they had mid to low quality merchandise, but at low prices (I have a very nice Donald Duck shirt that I bought for about $5 on sale).

    You can't have Kmart merchandise at Nordstrom prices. Decide if you are going to be Walmart or Nordstrom.

  • I agree there should be less stores, but after my local store closed I stopped shopping at the Disney Store and started buying online.  the closest store to me is at the Mall of America.  I do not go to the Mall of America unless someone is visiting or our once a year kind of trip to go to the park.  Also, there isn't much of anything I want from the stores anymore.  Nothing for me at least.  I have 3 daughters, so there are some things, but nothing really unique that you cant get at Walmart.  The collectable kind of stuff I can get online or get when we go to the parks.

    I wish they would turn the Mall of America store into a World of Disney store.  I would definately go out of my way to visit more.  With the kind of draw the mall gets it would be a perfect place for another World of Disney.

  • I wish they really were International. It'd be a dream come true to have a Disney Store down here in Rio.

  • Okay, so this is a start. But really they're overlooking two major other problems they have with TDS.

    #1 - Too much crap. It's almost all crap. Outside of DVD's and kid's clothing, I haven't really bought anything at a Disney Store in years. It's all Wal-Mart quality junk toys.

    Which brings me to point ...

    #2 - They need to pull their merch from other store chains. If people can buy the same exact thing at Target for the same amount or less money they're probably going to, as the average shopper is going to be in Target far more than they are TDS.

    The bottom line is, it wasn't just oversaturation. They stopped selling things people wanted.

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