Like a Mouseketeer reunion, Disney (NYSE: DIS ) is about to get its ears back.
The retail-scarred Children's Place (Nasdaq: PLCE ) is in advanced talks to return many of the Disney Store units back to Disney, reversing a 2004 deal by the kid apparel specialist to take over the then-troubled Disney Store concept.
The handoff is part of a lackluster report this morning out of Children's Place. Shares still opened higher, with investors no doubt relieved that Children's Place will now be able to focus on its flagship chain.
There are certainly opportunities out there to move attractively priced clothing basics, even if discounters like Target (NYSE: TGT ) and Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT ) have come a long way in updating their lines. In terms of smaller mall-based stores, Children's Place is positioned well in a soft economy against the slightly more upscale offerings of Gymboree's (Nasdaq: GYMB ) or Gap's (NYSE: GPS ) kid-geared concepts.
However, I think the real winner here will be Disney. It overbuilt its Disney Store chain after the concept's initial success. At one time, you encountered a Disney Store at every suburban shopping mall; the Disney brand just didn't feel special.
This also happened toward the end of Michael Eisner's tenure at the company, where the shops began selling brand-hosing direct-to-video junky sequels of the company's animated classics. Cutbacks in the animation studio also produced mostly forgettable theatrical releases, robbing the retail stores of the healthy flow of fresh character merchandise necessary to keep shoppers coming back.
Things are different now that Pixar is in its fold, ramping up production of its signature flicks while also watching over Disney's non-Pixar releases.
Disney also won't be buying back all of its stores. This will help Disney make a smaller number of stores magical again.
Yes, it's a win-win deal. I guess Disney fairy tales do come true after all.