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Disney converts stores to experience centres that reflect their theme parks

Disney stores will look like theme parks

Disney stores of the future

Disney is aiming to make the experience of being in one of its stores much closer to that of being at one of its theme parks with the entertainment giant testing the first major revamp of its retail stores this decade.

And it has also launched a new e-tail website in response to the rise of online shopping and falling visitor traffic to physical stores.

The stores plan includes interactive experiences and live-streams of its theme park parades as a way to get shoppers to engage with the Disney umbrella brand and buy more spin-off merchandise.

Executive VP of retail Paul Gainer said the company knew it needed to “elevate and improve the experiences” in its stores and online “as retail is changing.”

He was speaking at one of the two California locations where the new concept is being tested. There are also test stores in Nagoya, in Japan, and Shanghai, with Munich and Miami being converted by year-end. The company operates 340 stores globally.

In the test locations, which are more open and less obviously child-focused, there’s still plenty to keep kids occupied. They can fight Darth Vader on a giant video screen and spend time with other characters from the Disney, Pixar, Star Wars and Marvel franchises. And store staff can tailor experiences for special occasions.

During the live-streamed parades on the huge video screens, shoppers will be able to sit on mats rolled out for the occasion, while eating cotton candy and wearing light-up Mickey Mouse ears.

The screens could also live-stream other events such as major Disney movie premieres.

But what about the product on sale? Well, there’s less of it in these locations but store staff, as well as prominent signage, will direct shoppers to the firm’s revamped website. The website has been renamed, moving from shopdisney.com to disneystore.com, and the online offer now includes a much broader selection.

That’s broader both in terms of the product type and the target shopper. As well as the usual toys, there’s also fashion product from high-end labels like Coach and Siwy Denim, plus homewares from Ethan Allen Interiors and more exclusives that were previously only available at Disney’s theme parks.

Gainer said the company is taking the conversion slowly and expects to learn from the stores that have been revamped so far, with the upcoming Holiday season being a big learning curve. He said the results so far have been very good.

Halloween will also be a good test period with the company focusing more heavily on such key shopping seasons.

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