So, I think they had a challenge when these stores first opened in that they didn't commemorate anything other then the fact that you went shopping. Several years ago, I went online to buy an Olympic hat and I don't like to wear it as much because people always asked if I had gone to the Olympics and then I have to say no and I feel it creates a negative experience.
And I think the Disney stores had a similar challenge. Since your purchase at the stores doesn't relate to an actual Disney experience, it needs to stand for something other then just a retail experience. Maybe adding levels of experience will help it do that. They should also be rethinking the merchandise at the store and maybe using that as a point of differentiation.
Another thing that retail has always battled is the desire to create a more rich experience vs. getting people in & out. I can't tell you how many projects I've had turned down over the years because it would create too much "lingering." Retailers didn't really want to have people in their stores unless they were actually purchasing. Doing different activities weren't of interest to them.
So now maybe retailers are starting to learn about the importance of creating a reason to visit the physical space. And Disney, which creates such magical experiences everywhere else, had a pretty lame retail experience going on.
I don't know what else they're planning on doing, but they should be hosting birthday parties and special events just for kids. They should be doing real screenings of Disney classics. They should let kids create something, like Build-A-Bear does. And the employees should always be playing with things, just like I've seen them do at Hamley's in London. And they should be thinking about ways to connect the in-store experience with an at-home experience. And, it should be a social experience, a third place for kids to gather and explore together. I came up with some ideas for Mattel a few years back that would be great for their new stores if anyone wants to call me.
Whatever they do, it should be a destination for kids, not just another store.
Walt Disney Co. plans to unveil a new look for its Disney Stores on Tuesday in Montebello, and this time, instead of pixie dust, the company is relying on a heavy sprinkling of interactive technology.
"We felt that we needed to reinvent Disney retail and create an environment that really gave children the best 30 minutes of their day," said Jim Fielding, president of Disney Stores Worldwide.
That half hour, to be rolled out to Disney Stores worldwide, features a castle with a "magic" mirror in which a princess appears to tell a story whenever a child stands in front of it wearing a crown or holding a wand.
Customers can also use a touch screen to play music videos, movie trailers and other film shorts on a 12-foot screen in a gazebo-like theater enclosure.
Disney could use some retail magic. Analysts said the company needed to energize its chain, which it introduced in 1987 and sold to Children's Place Retail Stores Inc. in 2004 in what was viewed as a face-saving move. Like Warner Bros., Disney had opened too many mall stores and failed to change them often enough to preserve novelty, analysts said.
Disney bought back about 220 of its North American stores in March 2008, leaving more than 100 to close.
This year, the company plans to refurbish more than 20 of its stores in the United States and Europe, with the rest following in the next five to seven years. Other redesigned stores opening this year in the U.S. are in San Diego, Chicago, Dallas and Freehold, N.J.
Howard Davidowitz, chairman of Davidowitz & Associates Inc., a retail consulting firm, said the interactive elements are a lure to increase the time families spend in the store — and hopefully, the amount of money they spend too.
"If you speak to any retailer, they'll tell you there is a direct relationship between sales and how long a customer stays in the store," Davidowitz said.
Although he lauded Disney for its "bold new store design," it remains to be seen whether the company can change the merchandise frequently enough to keep families coming back.
Fielding said the stores will introduce new products weekly. The vast majority of the items will be unique to Disney Stores, he said. Exceptions include music CDs and Disney movie and television DVDs