October 21, 2004
Disney (NYSE: DIS ) and Children's Place (Nasdaq: PLCE ) have consummated a deal, and it's a good one for Mickey's investing club. Children's Place will take over North American Disney Stores' 313-location retail operation. The exact value of the arrangement isn't clear yet, but Disney will receive a working capital adjustment when the deal actually closes.
I wrote about talks and negotiations between the two companies not long ago. Now the deal has come to pass, and it hasn't come soon enough for me. I used to be bullish on the Disney Stores. I even thought sometimes that fighting for them was worthwhile. But reality eventually tempered my enthusiasm. I came to accept the inevitable conclusion: Disney just wasn't extracting any value from them. For any number of reasons -- overexposure, improper merchandising techniques, inventory selection issues -- take your pick, the boutiques no longer possessed their previous pizzazz.
The proposed licensing scheme is the way to go: Children's Place will actually manage the real estate and operate the business, and Disney will collect royalties. Children's Place seems confident it can make a go of this, pledging $100 million toward transforming the stores into unique, must-visit destinations once again. It won't be dependent on just magic and pixie dust, though; the action plan indicates pricing will be important to attract value-oriented consumers. As a Disney shareholder, I'd like to think that brand equity alone is enough to warrant premiums on merchandise, but such is life. Kids still love Mickey and Goofy, but their parents want those iconic characters at the right price.
Disney is now free to concentrate on managing its portfolio of licenses. Children's Place can hopefully be the catalyst that this business needs. If it can get things going, the consumer products segment of Disney should have some favorable reports down the line. As for Children's Place, its stock rose 18% as investors approved of the acquisition, believing that it will be a good fit for the company, one that is intrinsically and significantly incremental.
Time will tell, as they say, but I'm glad I'm on the Disney side of things. I'd rather be the licensor than the licensee, since I've already seen what those stores can do to shareholder value.
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Fool contributor Steven Mallas owns shares of Disney.