The Walt Disney Company, as it turns out, is not immune to the shift to e-commerce that’s been accelerated by the pandemic. In an announcement today, the Mouse House said it would be closing one-fifth or more of its brick-and-mortar Disney Store locations in 2021.
“While consumer behavior has shifted toward online shopping, the global pandemic has changed what consumers expect from a retailer,” said Stephanie Young, president of consumer products, games and publishing.
There are currently around 300 Disney Store retail locations in the United States. This move will shutter around 60 of those now. Then Disney will evaluate if more closures need to happen, including the potential closure of its European stores.
In a shift to focus more on e-commerce, the company plans to increase the diversity of products available including more adult apparel collections, trends like streetwear, premium home products and collectibles.
Sounds like they are bringing back The Disney Gallery to me. In my opinion that would not be a bad thing. Most of our favorite Disney merchandise came from that concept.
Today, you can find Disney products in brick-and-mortar locations from Target to speciality trend stores like Hot Topic and Box Lunch. There are now 50 miniature Disney Stores inside Target locations, up from 25 in 2019.
In a sense, the writing was on the way as soon as Disney decided upon a strategy that made Disney products as ubiquitous as cheese in the dairy aisle in the local big box store.
The Disney Store helped save The Walt Disney Company
The Disney Stores played a big role in the renaissance of The Walt Disney Company during the late 80s and early 90s.
The first store opened in the Glendale Galleria in 1987 and as the chain grew, it became the place for Disney fans who didn’t live near a theme park to pick up merchandise from the latest hit Disney movie.
By the time The Lion King premiered in 1994, there were more than 300 stores where fans could buy merchandise from the breakout hit.
Not all was sunshine and roses for the Disney Stores. Someone in the company had the less than bright idea to sell them to The Children’s Place in 2004. Quality and service dropped and by 2008 The Children’s Place had declared bankruptcy and Disney bought back the chain.
The Disney Store brand has been reinvented a couple more times since 2009, the most recent featuring a very generic white look where the merchandise is the star and the fun Disney characters are all but absent.
Current Disney CEO Bob Chapek moved from Home Entertainment to President of Disney Consumer Products in 2011. Later that division was moved under what was the Parks and Resorts division, where it lives today.
The company now looks at its big franchises and incorporates how they play across the parks, resorts, stores, and media into one overall strategy.
It’s no surprise that Disney is pulling back on its physical retail arm right now. With the pandemic hastening the arrival of more familiarity with shopping online by the general public, some retraction was expected.
If anything, I think we will see a bit more specialization as Disney licenses more and more products to third parties to stay atop of trends.
We’re curious to know if you’re more likely to visit ShopDisney.com or visit a brick-and-mortar Disney Store location to buy your Disney merchandise?