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Disney regains control of The Disney Stores today

The Disney Store - Forum ShopsThe failed experiment that was The Children’s Place attempt to run The Disney Stores is now officially over. Disney takes back operations today after The Children’s Place had to file for bankruptcy in the subsidiaries that ran The Disney Stores.

In 2000, there were 741 Disney Stores worldwide with 515 of those being in North America. When The Children’s Place took over the North America stores in 2004 there were 315 in the US and Canada. Now Disney will still be closing 98 of the remaining 220 US and Canada stores as part of the re-organization. So that’s leaving a very slim 115 or so US and Canada stores upon which to rebuild the brand.

When Disney first decided to “sell” (they actually licensed the store concept and brand) The Disney Stores, there was a general feeling among fans and analysts that Disney had forgotten how to run a retail store chain. That was certainly true, but in hind-sight weakening economic trends may have played a larger role than initially thought. I have faith that Disney Consumer Products has it in them to build back the brand into a something like what it was like a the peak of its performance, if not better.

James D. Fielding, who was executive vice president for global retail sales and marketing at Disney Consumer Products, now takes over the role of President for The Disney Stores Worldwide. He will oversee the North American and Europe stores and work with the Japan based stores that are owned by OLC.

It’s my hope that Fielding will bring back some direction and some “Disney Magic” to The Disney Stores. Return to what worked. Highly themed stores are a must since that sets the stores apart from others in the mall. A decent collectibles area (with store exclusives), some nice watches, plenty of children’s clothes and toys for kids of all ages, and good promotions tied in with movies and theme parks. Some people would add Disney Pins to that, but I think that trend is on the way out.

You may also remember that The Disney Catalog was a casualty of this failed experiment. They definitely need to bring that back (perhaps combined with some new form for The Disney Magazine).

I would also like to see the return of The Disney Gallery concept (perhaps mixed with the new high end clothing and furniture lines). Las Vegas, Anaheim, Orlando, New York City and Chicago are the obvious places to bring those to immediately. The Disney Gallery is an important destination store for The Disney Fan. Even if they don’t have a Disney Store in their community, they’ll go out of their way to find and visit the nearest Disney Gallery.

Keep in mind that while profitability is important, The Disney Stores serve as a ‘brand outpost’ for Disney’s other business ventures. Therefore it’s important that ‘show’ trumps the bottom line. It may cost you a percentage point this year, but it will pay off in the long run with a stronger brand and a stronger Walt Disney Company in total.

But most of all, Fielding needs to bring back the high level of training The Disney Store cast members used to receive. Hire CMs who are already knowledgeable about Disney, have the Disney attitude, are ready to make the magic happen, and willing to go the extra mile to do so. Bring back the perks (Free park passes, trivia contests, etc.) of being a Disney Store CM too. Then train and retrain until The Disney Stores feel like you’ve just walked onto Main Street at Disneyland.

When it comes down to it, The Disney Stores are an extension of Disneyland’s Main Street. Which itself is an extension of America’s unique urban history and Walt Disney’s own childhood. Every The Disney Store Cast Member and Manager needs to remember there is an invisible line connecting them back to Walt Disney’s first job selling Newspapers on the train, which led to a passion for trains, which led to Disneyland, which led to The Disney Stores and their chance to make the magic for the next guest who crosses that threshold. Keep that in mind and the store sells itself.

(image of now closed Caesar’s Palace Forum Shops The Disney Store courtesy of palmsrick via Flickr Creative Commons license)

17 thoughts on “Disney regains control of The Disney Stores today”

  1. I was speaking to a CM at my local store this weekend and he was very excited about getting his official Disney badge and their perks back. He told me that the inside rumor was the stores were going to attempt to model themselves after the successful Disney stores in Europe.

  2. The NYC Fifth Avenue store used to have an incredible gallery of original production cels, Donald Duck comic strips & limited editions for sale.

    Hopefully this news will mean the return of the gallery & all the things that originally made the store fun to visit.

  3. Catherine Wilson

    I absolutely agree with the article – especially the part about bringing back highly trained (true Disney!) CMs, and treating them as CMs (perks and fun things like the trivia contests). The Disney Stores used to be special places to go for unique items, even items for adults (!), with CMs who were different from other retail workers because they truly enjoyed their jobs and wanted to be there to ensure a great guest experience. That sadly has not been emphasized in years, though.

    As a former Disney Store CM, who left a few months before the Children’s Place “takeover,” I am very excited for the Stores to be back under the Disney umbrella and hoping that Disney will make them a destination for people who can’t get to WDW or DL to experience some magic!

    1. Just because you are hired under TCP at the Disney Store doesn’t mean that you won’t be a good CM for Disney. I think that the CM’s working at my local a Disney store love their job because they are always excited about Disney. To think that just because you were not a CM before TCP took over you are not as highly trained or as good at guest service is very ignorant. Also if you truely loved Disney and your job as a CM at Disney than you would have stayed with the store even after TCP took over

    1. Also its run by a diff part of the company. Last time I was there which was about 3 months ago they had a good amount of artwork , figures, and stuff on the third floor.

  4. I still visit my local Disney store, but it isn’t nearly as fun as it was 10 years ago. Here’s hoping they recapture that magic soon.

  5. The current quantity of original artwork displayed at the NYC flagship store greatly pales compared to what they had a decade ago, back then the entire floor was devoted original art.

    Along with feature film cels they had an entire section devoted to current TV animation (Duck Tales/Aladdin/Winnie the Pooh cels with matching drawings). They had an alcove devoted to Who Framed Roger Rabbit production cels, another alcove devoted to limiteds. The other side of the escalator was devoted to Uncle Scrooge themed vintage Donald Duck comic strips by Al Taliaferro (with an added Carl Barks signature).

    Sadly, in the age of Cintiqs/computers there isn’t much in the way of contemporary original art to sell these days.

  6. I couldn’t agree more. I too was a former DS CM.. lucky enough to be in a stores opening team, which meant 5 days of team-building “Traditions” Training. While my departure from the stores had more personal reasons (the sudden death of a fellow CM I was very close with), it was very sad to see all my former team members leave one by one because the stores had become something other than the Disney Magical place we had known and loved. By the time of the childrens place takeover, I am not sure any of my fellow CMs were still there.

  7. I agree that changes have been necessary ever since “The Children’s Place” took over control of the Disney Store business, and knowing that the Walt Disney company is back in control of the Disney Store business (as of today … 5-1-08) is incredibly exciting. I’m looking forward to seeing the stores that are left, return to their previous glory, offering visitors a chance to feel as if they are at WDW (or WDL), even though they may be hundreds of miles away from either of the WD theme parks. Years ago when the stores first opened, it was an adventure to visit them, and something to look forward to, where you could purchase a myriad of Disney themed items. We noticed the change once TCP had taken over, and our interests went elsewhere as far as shopping went. Now we will return to shopping frequently at our local Disney store again, and look forward to everything it will have to offer. I’m wondering though which stores will now close. A brand new Disney Store opened within the past few months in our local area. I wonder if they would have bothered to open it, only to close it now. I would hope not. Our hope is that it will be one of the stores that will stay open and will return to the original style of previous Disney Stores of yesteryear. I too agree that the cast members working in the revamped Disney Stores should be trained and re-trained in the manor that the original Disney Stores held their high standards to. With good CM moral, the stores will be more efficiently run, and will also be run with an enthusiastic attitude. This is definitely an exciting time not only for the Disney company, but also for Disney fans (like my little family), who have been hoping for something like this to happen. We travel to the Disney theme parks every year, and during our non-travel times, we appreciate having the chance to still shop locally (at the Disney Store), and yet still feel connected to the world of Disney.

  8. I remember going into my first Disney Store, that I later worked at, and feeling like I was walking into a corner of Disneyland. I haven’t felt that in some time. I agree on the strong theme and training points, those are a must.

    As much as it stinks to have stores close, perhaps this will make the ones that remain all the more magical. I hope so.

  9. I have first hand knowledge on some of the store closings and it is not a pretty site on how this company is handling it. It sure is leaving a pretty awful taste in my mouth on how corporate Disney is treating some very faithful and WELL TRAINED employees. To say the least, I am VERY disappointed in the upper management in Disney Corporation!

  10. Gee, John, you sure have a long list of demands!

    You pretty much echoed a lot of my own thoughts, actually.

    Another good thing about the Stores being within the Company fold is that they can share Cast Members with the Resorts. What I mean by that is that the Stores can “groom” people who are thinking about moving to central Florida or southern California, who can then transfer to a position with the Resort – and vice-versa. Say someone needs to move out of southern California to somewhere in the Midwest, but they’ve been good cast members and they really don’t want to stop. Give them a job in a Disney Store. They can use their knowledge of the Resort to “sell” trips to the locals.

    I think part of the problem the Stores had was: too many!!! They first emerged in southern California a few years after Disneyland dropped the A-E ticket (“coupon”) system, eliminating the ability to inexpensively drop into Disneyland for a few hours to get a Disney fix and buy some merchandise. Having a store in the local mall made sense.

    But then there were too many of them, and when everyone become comfortable with shopping online…. poof! There it went.

    The concept can still work, if done right.

  11. I know exactly when The Disney Stores started to go downhill. It was called Project GO and started in 2000. The Disney trivia competitions had disappeared as well as the morale boosters that adorned the Disney stockrooms. It became a stark place to work and the fun had been driven out. Disney knowledge and trivia didn’t matter anymore, and my manager even told me that. It was all about the business and the business only. Key business drivers were more important than anything thing else at all. I got reprimanded for answering the phone without direction and wasn’t allowed to straighten anything without direction. The guests could easily tell that the fun had disappeared. After five wonderful years, the “honeymoon” was over. So I left. These changes seemed to cause Disney to sell off the stores, but I’m sure Disney will find their way back to managing magical stores once again. It will just take a lot of time and work.

    1. I think that it depends on the store and the manager. I know they still do have trivia contest and questions at the store I visit. I believe that like any retail store the Cast you have makes the difference. I know that the store I am at we have a lot of original Disney CM who loved Disney so much you stood by them even when TCP took over and did our best to continue the magic.

  12. I was a Cast Member at the Augusta, GA, Disney Store from the day the truck unloaded before it opened in April 1992 all the way through the day in May 2003 when the destruction crew came in and turned ever fiberglass character into dumpster-fill. I worked weekends at a store in Atlanta for another year, but left not long before The Children Place took over.

    I saw the store try to keep up through the 90’s as Wal-Mart and Target became where everyone bought everything. The newness of the DS concept began to wear off. There got to be so many stores that it was no longer quite as big a deal to visit one. The majority of folks may like Disney, but most people are not as big of fans as those of us who read this site – cute Disney clothes and toys are all the same to them and if they can get them cheaper at Target/Wal-Mart, that works for them.

    I think the World of Disney store concept with locations in tourist destinations is the way to go with Disney retail. I’d love to see the company maintain the mall stores, but I’m not sure there is still a place for them in this world or this economy.

  13. Three of the existing stores in my area are closing. If I have to drive further to get to a store, it better deliver on the experience.

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