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Why The Disney Stores are so Important

The Atlantic magazine has a very interesting article on how Apple stores are really an entertainment destination, much like Disney’s theme parks. As part of the story they include a chart that shows 74.5 million visitors to Apple stores compared to Disneyland and Disney World which they show as between 16 and 18 million. The gist of the article is that Apple has made entertainment, ie playing with Apple’s many devices, the key attractor of their stores. That drives future customers.

Looking past their under-counted numbers for Disney’s parks, the Atlantic is on to something here. A few years ago, The Disney Stores would have been competing with Apple Stores with for that in-mall entertainment experience. 300+ stores around the world as little ambassadors for the complete Disney experience. Possibly as important to developing future customers of Disney Parks and Films as the Disneyland TV shows were in 1950s to the success of Disneyland.

So, as The Disney Stores ramps up their opening schedule for the new models, which looked at Apple for inspiration, let’s hope they’ve hit the ball out of the park. The Times Square store will open November 9th.

12 thoughts on “Why The Disney Stores are so Important”

  1. Their hypothesis is wrong. There is a reason why Disney sold the Disney Stores off once before, and that’s because they were nothing special, and there is no going back. I mean that at one point it was a special treat to go to the local Disney Store. But now you can get the same products online, or at other stores, and people got used to having a Disney Store at every mall. It’s going to take something special to bring people back and I don’t think a new store concept will work. Yeah maybe it’ll bring the Disneyana fans out, but not the main stream ones. Perhaps exclusive merchandise, but that’s not going to make Disney Consumer Products very happy.

    Remember guests aren’t buying things at the park anymore. The same shopping habits will exist at the local Disney Store.

  2. @Roger – what do you mean people aren’t buying things at the parks anymore?? I was in WDW last month and it seemed people (including myself) were spending as usual!

  3. I for one am not excited or interested in the the new Disney Store in Times Sqaure. I was happy with the World of Disney store on 5th Ave. that they closed last year because of “high rent”. (like Times Square is any cheaper come on!) In any case, WOD sold park merch. plus exclusive NYC WOD merch. and it sold well. It had pin trading events and character meet/greet and was always packed. To put the same store that will be in malls around the country in Times Square where you can get the same merch. around the country just doesn’t seem like a recipe for success. Bring back WOD and expand them instead to a limited amount of cities, not malls.

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  6. Having worked for The Disney Stores way, way back in the early 90s, I can tell you what USED to make them important: They stood for original, fun, uplifting retail. What a rush it was to step into a Disney Store after slogging through any mall in America and finding energetic people, uplifting music and original merchandise. By the sheer joy of the experience The Disney Store was in a class all by itself.

    But, as time wore on it wore on. We as cast members watched on sadly as every new animated film was promoted with the same stuff with merely a different decal slapped onto it. Every new video release was promoted with the same “pre-order” lithographs that got tiring even to the guests. “You want me to overpay for a video only to get these crappy pictures? You’re not going to get me this time, Disney.”

    If we were bored with all, it was only a matter of time until everybody was as well. And so it happened, people got bored with it all, Disney seemed to get bored with it and then tossed it aside.

    I totally agree, The Disney Stores do represent a tremendous opportunity for Disney to promote the ideals of magic, quality and innovation (especially in these days of online shopping and expensive travel) but that opportunity may be gone after all this time. At best, The Disney Stores today are a well stocked airport store with little sign of pixie dust.

  7. it’s technically inaccurate to say Disney ever sold off the Disney Store. They didn’t. What they did do was license the right to operate the stores to TCP. As for World of Disney closing and the Times Square store opening, it’s a bit more complicated than just rent money although the space in Times Square is significantly less (it’s about 2/3 of WoD if I’m not mistaken) and the building owners are different and in their own spaces. I haven’t been keeping up on it, but it was anticipated that Coca-Cola, which owns the 5th Ave location, is planning on using it for themselves.

    Regardless, the key difference here is that WoD operated under WDPR whereas TDS operates under DCP. TDS was actually extremely successful at the onset, which led to oversaturation, which led to its eventual near-demise. Except in rare cases, too much growth too soon is always a bad thing. At one point, I believe there were 3 or 4 Disney Stores in Manhattan alone (42nd St/New Amsterdam, Columbus Ave, 5th Ave) plus two I recall in Queens (Forest Hills, Queens Mall). They could easily have gotten away with just one in Manhattan and one in Queens. Lesson learned. Manhattan has years without a Disney Store (although I suspect the agreement with TCP prohibited it).

    As for WoD selling NYC exclusive merchandise, that’s partially true. There was a bit of NYC branded stuff, but it was also sold at the theme parks, most notably Youse Guys Moichendise at DHS. Also semi-unique to WoD was that it sold some Disney Theatrical merchandise as well.

    That said, the Times Square store will sell an entire floor’s worth of merchandise that will be exclusive to the location and TDS has started selling location-exclusive merchandise in certain markets, which was how it once was.

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  9. As a former Disney Store Manager (1991 to 1994) I can give you my opinion as to why the Disney Stores fell from grace in the last decade, and what they can to to fix it. When I worked for the Disney Stores Disney was in it’s second golden age of Animation (Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Lion King). We could not stock these related products quick enough. We had a selection of products that were unique to the stores and Theme Parks. Now you can buy the same products at your local Target and Walmart (and for cheaper). The Stores were very unique and highly detailed with animated caracters all over the store. In the late 90’s they started creating generic plain Jane stores with no uniqueness.

    I am hoping that the new stores they have planned will change this. They need to change all the stores to this new model and start stocking unique products that you cannot get elsewhere, make the stores unique and keep them that way. Oh, and keep making movies with products that the stores can sell.

  10. I agree that just any old store will not do. The Disney store used to be an event every time you stepped into one The previews, videos, music and of course good cast members. (Had a few bad ones). Even if we did not buy that day it was the experience to ALWAYS stop in to see what was new, make plans on what to get next time we had money and to let my daughter experience a taste of Disney away from the parks. SOME people cannot afford to get to the parks so the stores WERE Disney in real lfe, to see and touch. The closed our Christmas tradition of always visiting the San Francisco Union Square store right after seeing the giant Christmas tree. She was so disappointed she almost cried. Great Job Disney execs!

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