The Disney Stores Get the Apple Treatment
It’s official. Disney will be opening 40 of its new concept stores before the end of 2011.
This has been a long time coming in a lot of different ways – and, because of that time differential, the stores that are starting to appear will be vastly different from what would otherwise have been the case.
The Disney Stores, which are part of Disney Consumer Products, made their first appearance in 1987 and remained in Disney’s hands until 2004 when the chain was sold to Children’s Place on a long-term lease.
By 2008 Disney made the decision to buy back most of the stores and, since that time, they’ve been back in the hands of their original parent.
But something else happened during that same time period.
In 2006, the Disney Company bought Pixar Studios – creator of "Toy Story" and a string of other Oscar winning animated films – in an all-shares deal that made Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, Disney’s largest shareholder.
And while Jobs made it clear that, although now a Disney Board member, he wouldn’t become involved in Disney’s strategy, that all changed when Disney started talking about re-imagining the Disney Stores.
Put simply, Jobs wasn’t satisfied with what Disney was talking about doing.
It wasn’t enough for Disney to simply re-design the stores. It was time for them to be re-imagined. And that’s what’s opening up now.
After having provided Disney with the confidential research that led to the design of the Apple Stores, Jobs also insisted that a prototype be built to make sure that everything worked perfectly before anything went live.
The costs were high – but the expectation of profits is higher.
Some of the recreational and interactive entertainment hubs will allow children to build their own customized toy cars, watch film clips of their own selection, interact with a “magic mirror” in a miniature Disney Princess castle, ‘chat’ with their favorite Disney stars and participate in karaoke contests.
And the Apple Store experience will also be visible to adults from the mobile checkout (miniature receipt printers that each employee will carry) to the cross-selling ability to book a Disney Cruise on touch-screen kiosks.
Steve Jobs’ message to the Disney designers and executives was simple. It was to “Dream bigger.” And they did.
The Disney Store was a retail game changer when it was first introduced. The Apple Store changed the consumer’s expectations about retail even more.
As these new Disney concept stores open, it will be interesting to see what impact combining these two merchandising giants has on retail’s next stages.