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Delving into Disney’s retail reinvention

After repurchasing The Disney Store from the insolvent Hoop Retail in 2008, The Walt Disney Company is re-imagining the retail identity of the 360-outlet international chain. The process began two years ago with a series of high-level brainstorming sessions, and after years of development, the new strategy is rolling out.
October 22, 2010

After repurchasing The Disney Store from the insolvent Hoop Retail in 2008, The Walt Disney Company is re-imagining the retail identity of the 360-outlet international chain. The process began two years ago with a series of high-level brainstorming sessions, and after years of development, the new strategy is rolling out.

‘We felt we needed to reinvent The Disney Store shopping experience,’ says Jim Fielding, president of Disney Stores Worldwide. ‘We wanted to create a unique experience from a child’s perspective.’

With the mission to make the shopping experience ‘the best 30 minutes in a child’s day,’ Disney Consumer Products, the arm of the company now responsible for the retail chain, decided it needed to refresh the retail operation from the ground up. DCP enlisted lead designer Jon Endicott, who has years of retail design experience, and charged him and his team with breathing new life into the chain.

After much discussion, the design team decided to move away from the old aesthetic and incorporate a warm neutral palette with green and blue accents and wood finishes into the new look. ‘We wanted a vast variety of colors that our products can lay over,’ says Endicott. ‘The older store design was a heavier one, and it was hard to show the newness of the products.’ The stores will also be replete with frosted and white acrylic displays to add a quality of lightness to the experience.

Another guiding principle of the redesign is a revamped merchandising philosophy. ‘We wanted to sell by story,’ says Endicott. ‘And all products from the same story should live together.’ The approach moves away from the standard category merchandising utilized by most purveyors of product. The dedicated areas, stuffed with complete lines of merch from each Disney franchise, are now referred to as ‘neighborhoods’ and are laid out throughout the store’s average 3,200 square feet of floor space. They sit on either side of a path referred to as the Pixie Dust Trail that winds its way through the store.

‘We wanted to create an organic circulation path to take the customers through every one of those neighborhoods,’ says Endicott. He explains the path was designed to reflect the way kids explore, which he believes is not necessarily taken into account in standard retail planograms.

Anchoring each neighborhood is a ‘hero fixture’ – essentially an interactive display that breaks with the scale of the other fixtures and is intended to lure kids off the pixie path and into each dedicated space. ‘The fixtures are meant to have kids play with them and engage with them through touch and feel,’ says Endicott. ‘Then they will rejoin the journey.’

One such fixture is the Magic Mirror located in the Disney Princess section. With a wave of a wand or nod of a crown, a screen delivers an animated short between 20 and 30 seconds in length. And in the section dedicated to Cars there’s a Build your own Car station.

Each store will also have a theater (between 200 square feet and 300 square feet in size) that borrows from Disney’s theme park aesthetic to house vintage-looking trees, benches and a bandstand. There is also a super-sized screen that lets store visitors choose their own entertainment. ‘It allows guests to co-create with us,’ says Endicott. ‘And to stress that time spent in the store is not just about selling.’

So far, the new store design has been rolled out to The Disney Store in Madrid, Spain, along with US locations in New Jersey, California and Texas.

‘This year we are doing 20 stores,’ says Fielding. ‘We will be rolling the concept out to the rest over the next five to seven years in order to transform our entire chain.’

Additionally, after a challenging run under Hoop Retail’s ownership, The Disney Store is once again looking to expand its reach. The plan is to enter Ireland, Belgium and Denmark this year, with an eye towards opening stores in Mexico and Latin America in 2011.

‘We are being highly selective,’ says Fielding. ‘We are looking at premier shopping destinations. It’s not about high store counts anymore, it’s about quality – I think this new design concept showcases that.’

About The Author
Gary Rusak is a freelance writer based in Toronto. He has covered the kids entertainment industry for the last decade with a special interest in licensing, retail and consumer products. You can reach him at garyrusak@gmail.com

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