Disney Stores More Like Disney World

Discussion
Oct 14, 2009
George Anderson

By George Anderson

The Walt Disney
Company, with an assist from Steve Jobs and Apple’s retail operations
group, is undertaking a major remodeling effort at its 340 Disney Store
locations in the U.S. and Europe. The plan is to take some of excitement
of the Magic Kingdom and transplant it into the store environment. The
new concept is called Imagination Park.

"The world
does not need another place to sell Disney merchandise – this only works
if it’s an experience," Jim Fielding, president of Disney Stores Worldwide,
told The New York Times.

“The Disney
stores were like museums that were all gift shop without the experience
of the museum," Richard Bates, chief creative officer at The Brand Union,
told Brandweek. "Your
goal is to immerse them in the brands so that, they aren’t just coming
into the store, they want to buy so they can have a piece of that experience."

Disney plans
to spend about $1 million per store to create the new experience that
makes use of interactive technology and entertainment to draw shoppers
into locations and keep them there.

Kids will be able to choose
film clips to watch in in-store theaters. They’ll also take
part in karaoke contests or chat live via satellite with stars from shows
running on the Disney Network. Computer chips embedded in packaging will
activate hidden features.

Mr. Jobs, who
serves on the Disney board, is said to have encouraged the company to “think
bigger” when it came to the remodels. Disney was given access to proprietary
information about Apple’s retail operations as it worked to create Imagination
Park.

A piece of
advice that Mr. Jobs offered and Disney followed was to build a prototype.
The store located in Glendale, Calif., impressed Bruce Tobin, executive
vice president with Simon Property Group.

“It’s truly
spectacular – beyond our imagination," Mr. Tobin told the Times.
"These are going to be true destinations."

Discussion
Questions: Is Disney on the right track with the Imagination Park concept?
What do you think of the role of Steve Jobs and Apple in the concept’s
development? Will we see more Apple-like environments in retail going
forward?

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18 Comments on "Disney Stores More Like Disney World"


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Joel Warady
Guest
Joel Warady
11 years 7 months ago

In a year when the US has seen over 8,000 retail stores close due to the poor economy–and poor execution–this is simply great news. Finally, a retailer admits that their stores were lackluster and instead of lowering prices or increasing promotions, they are going to spend money and create a “shopping experience.”

While Steve Jobs may not be designing these stores, his influence is already being felt. And if the revamped Disney stores in the mall start to look like the Apple stores on a Saturday, Disney retail executives will be more than thrilled.

With online shopping so prevalent today, unless the retail brick and mortar store offers a unique and positive experience, why would anyone go out of their way to shop there? Disney finally realizes this, and is making the absolute right strategic decision.

Bob Phibbs
Guest
11 years 7 months ago

Disney will face the same problems any great toy store faces–being a babysitter for parents strolling the malls. The chance to engage the customer is huge; whether this $1 mil per store will sell more merch to justify the cost is the big question.

Marge Laney
Guest
11 years 7 months ago

I think this a great idea, especially because their theme parks are suffering from declining traffic. Each of these stores will not only pay for themselves with merchandise sales, but they will also act as interactive promotional theaters for their theme parks. Involving Mr. Jobs is also a great idea as he definitely has the concept of retail as theater nailed.

Roger Saunders
Guest
11 years 7 months ago

Engaging the consumer, be they 8 or 80, always works. Disney is not only seeing the customer’s view of the world via this strategy, they permitting the customer to create the “world” as they see it.

They still have to make certain that Mom & Dad can circle through the store, but Disney is a master at moving people through the rope line.

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
11 years 7 months ago

Now that’s more like it! Last month I blogged about how retail’s current definition of the store environment ideal (clean, clutter-free, and supremely navigable) is already outdated and focuses on correction-of-errors rather than on truly experiential retailing.

It’s thrilling to see Disney and Apple teaming up to take a revolutionary big leap. Evolutionary isn’t making the most of the shopper marketing opportunity!

Michelle Fenstermaker
Guest
Michelle Fenstermaker
11 years 7 months ago

What a great combination–Apple and Disney. I have felt that the brand soul of Disney–MAGIC–has been lost in its stores. I look forward to a compelling, engaging customer journey that will surely appeal to all ages!

Cathy Hotka
Guest
11 years 7 months ago

When Steve Jobs talks about “thinking bigger,” I’d listen!

The Disney stores sell merchandise that nobody NEEDS. They’re smart to amp up the WANT factor, and engaging young customers in the experience is a very smart move. Walt Disney, who created the first modern media company by marketing brand extensions, would approve.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
11 years 7 months ago
This sounds like a great idea to build traffic, excitement and buzz. The kids may actually want to go to the mall with mom. In fact, the kids may generate more trips to the mall for mom, which would be good for every retailer. To distinguish oneself from the competition is critical in any business. For Disney, in the retail malls, the competition isn’t just the other toy store. The competition is every store in the mall. There is no doubt that this concept will draw more people, spending more time in the store. But, will those people be buyers or players? Apple’s involvement only adds to the creative strength of an already creative company. It pushes them to the leading edge of the latest and greatest in technology. The investment, however, should be looked at as brand building, not retailing. In the end, it is nothing more than a gift shop and to justify the investment on a considerable uptick in sales is a dream that your heart makes.
Tom McGoldrick
Guest
Tom McGoldrick
11 years 7 months ago

I applaud Disney for investing in retail but hope they are prepared for a long wait for this concept to be successful.

Our research consistently shows consumers being focused on necessities and shopping at sales. This type of recreational shopping has not been as desired as it was in the past. I am sure it will come back again and when it does, they will be well positioned. I just worry about the short term.

PJ Walker
Guest
11 years 7 months ago

Disney is taking a page from Coca-Cola here. The World of Coke is a fun, interactive experience where at the end of the line, the consumer is delivered into a huge retail space filled with branded merchandise and memorabilia. I can see a similar set up for Disney, especially in today’s vacation-restricted economy.

Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
11 years 7 months ago

The Disney Store format has been looking tired for years. If you are going to change format, I would say go big or go home. I’m hoping this new style comes to Canada. The stores here really need a face lift.

Doug Stephens
Guest
Doug Stephens
11 years 7 months ago

I’m with Joel and Cathy on this. These stores simply have to be destinations–otherwise they’re totally ineffective.

If ever there was a brand that could afford to be “animated” in-store, it’s Disney. They have the rare advantage of so much to work with in the way of story telling and imagery.

I hope the rest of the retail community takes a close look at this and recognizes that the bar just got a little higher for everyone.

Lee Peterson
Guest
11 years 7 months ago

Finally, the “experience” dream that most retail designers have been calling for since the .com boom is coming to fruition. All it took was a complete collapse of the crazy growth rampage retailers were on for them to realize that each store’s experience is actually way more important than a million units. Too bad there wasn’t more foresight in the industry–wait a minute! There was. They call it Urban Outfitters (Urban Brands). Kudos to them for staying slim and making experience key through all the craziness.

Don Delzell
Guest
Don Delzell
11 years 7 months ago
Absolutely the right thing to do. Of course, it’s all in the execution. However, a bit of history here. Disney will not be the first iconic brand to try to create experiential retailing. Nike comes immediately to mind. The Nike retail experience has not been a resounding success, and Disney would do well to learn from that. I applaud the clarity of insight that “the world does not need another place to buy Disney merchandise.” Having said all this, I really wonder if the Apple retail store experience is even remotely congruent to the Disney store experience. First and foremost, when originally launched, the only place consumers could get hands-on with Apple products was the Apple store. It was also a destination for new application trial, for advice, and the always completely booked Genius Bars. While Apple and Disney are iconic brands, I question how similar they really are. The one element they carry is a very strong affect identification with the brand. Apple = cool. Disney = magic. Well, Disney used to mean magic.… Read more »
Bill Emerson
Guest
Bill Emerson
11 years 7 months ago

It’s hard to argue with Steve Jobs and the success of the Apple retail stores. They have consistently been the most productive locations in any mall they’ve gone into, with revenues typically well over $1,000/square foot.

Having said that, I’d like to echo something that Bob pointed out above. I’ll be generous and assume a net margin of $5/unit for merchandise in the Disney stores. That means they need an incremental 200,000 units to cover the capex involved. This, of course, does not include the ongoing incremental expense and complexity of operating these showplaces.

In other words, if my average unit retail is well over $1,000 with extremely high margins (Apple stores), this move makes a lot of sense. If I make my living selling $20 Goofy t-shirts, I’m not so sure. But, then again, maybe I’m just Dumbo.

Andy Goldblatt
Guest
Andy Goldblatt
11 years 7 months ago

Getting an acceptable ROI on the $1 mil per store is going to take some real Disney magic.

Brian Kelly
Guest
11 years 7 months ago

“It’s the economy, stupid!” Carvil’s advice to Clinton that got Bill into office.

I’ve heard it as, “It’s the merchandise, stupid!”

Not since “Lion King” has Disney launched content that drove licensed product footsteps. A third sequel to “Toy Story” doesn’t portend well. Even the Princess’s lifestyle lost some luster, if not relevance, in the belt-tightening, post-recession consumer re-rack. Tink? C’mon. Retail brands and the brand experience are more complicated than that.

Fixing the place is nice but “build it and they will come” won’t work. A lesson learned (not?) when D pushed the biz off to Children’s Place and WB stores shut down all together.

Maybe Mr. Jobs has some “iDisney” magic among future product offerings?

Otherwise, as we like to say, “retail ain’t for sissies.”

Scott Knaul
Guest
Scott Knaul
11 years 6 months ago

This is going to be exciting to watch unfold. I love the branding and environment at the Disney parks and it will be interesting to see if that can be duplicated on a smaller scale in the stores. If they can nail it then it will be a big win.

The question I have is what type of “draw” will they provide? I think it’s smart to team up with Apple as they provide that draw every day in their stores. The draw isn’t just about the products but the environment and the classes that they provide to keep people coming in and introducing them to new products and solutions. Disney won’t be able to put rides in their stores (or will they?) but they could add character gatherings and parties to make it a true destination at the mall.

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