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Disney Plots Streetwear Push as it Closes 60 Stores

Consumers looking to score Tigger T-shirts and Mickey Mouse mugs will have to try their luck online.

Theme parks haven’t been the only spots where the coronavirus pandemic has curtailed traffic—and revenue—for Disney. In a move shifting retail priorities from bricks to clicks, the entertainment giant is closing at least 60 Disney Stores in North America this year, representing almost one-third of the stores in the market and nearly 20 percent of its 300-plus locations worldwide.

Over the next year, Disney says it will focus on providing a more “seamless, personalized and franchise-focused” e-commerce experience through its online ShopDisney platform. As part of the e-commerce push, Disney intends to revamp ShopDisney and integrate it further with Disney Parks mobile apps and social media platforms.

There are currently more than 200 Disney Store locations in North America, more than 40 Disney Store locations in Japan, a flagship location in Shanghai and more than 70 Disney Store locations across Europe. Disney also is evaluating a significant reduction of stores in Europe, while the locations in Japan and China will not be affected.

Disney did not comment on the specifics of which North American stores are closing, and did not disclose the potential number of resulting layoffs.

With the e-commerce commitment, Disney will add more merchandise from its full range of brands, highlighting the inclusion of more adult apparel collections and artist collaborations, trend-forward streetwear, premium home products and collectibles.

The product expansion is a major component of the pivot, as Disney Stores often catered to a younger audience with a selection of children’s apparel, toys, plush and games.

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Disney is one of the world’s largest licensing companies and home to many of pop culture’s most lucrative intellectual properties outside of its own brand, including Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, ESPN, Twentieth Century Studios and National Geographic.

But even as the company cashes in from its Disney+ streaming video service, sales at its merchandise licensing and retail business fell 7 percent in 2020 to $4.18 billion, in large part due to store closures related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Disney intends to revamp ShopDisney and integrate it further with the Disney Parks mobile apps and social media platforms.
Disney intends to revamp ShopDisney and integrate it further with the Disney Parks mobile apps and social media platforms. shopdisney.com

“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 at Disney in a statement. “Over the past few years, we’ve been focused on meeting consumers where they are already spending their time, such as the expansion of Disney store shop-in-shops around the world. We now plan to create a more flexible, interconnected e-commerce experience that gives consumers easy access to unique, high-quality products across all our franchises.”

Outside the Disney Stores, the company’s brick-and-mortar presence extends to numerous ventures, namely in its theme parks, which are home to more than 600 Disney Parks stores. Additionally, the company’s other shopping experiences include shop-in-shops, lifestyle and outlet locations and third-party retailers around the world.

In 2019, Disney partnered with Target to launch miniature Disney Stores inside the mass merchant, starting with 25 locations. The partnership has since expanded to more than 50 stores.

The Disney Store experiences are designed to include unique elements to deliver what the company calls “magical moments” for customers of all ages, including a blue Pixie Dust Trail to guide shoppers through the experience, “magical trees” including some of Disney’s favorite characters and a custom skyline which incorporates Disney storytelling moments and iconic elements.

At the end of the Trail, consumers encounter the Disney Store Theatre, a giant video library containing Disney film trailers, film clips, music videos, classic animation and more. Free family activities and events are hosted on a daily basis within the theatre, enabling the retailer to create a more experiential feel for shoppers, rather than a transactional one.