Big things are in store for Disney's
This morning's New York Times details a massive makeover at the 340-store chain, as the family entertainment giant tries to sprinkle some interactive pixie dust on its namesake retail concept.
Some of the components in the test stores that will open next year include demand-driven miniature theaters, scent-powered marketing, and RFID-tagged merchandise that interacts with other objects in the store when in proximity. For instance, donning a princess tiara and passing by a magical mirror may trigger a response from Cinderella.
Disney could use the improvements. When it peaked in 2002, Disney's retail empire had nearly twice the number of stores that it has today, but was bleeding $100 million a year. A disenchanted Disney sold the unit to Children's Place
The old retail concept was stale, obvious, and too common. Other companies have found ways to out-Disney Disney at the retail front:
(NYSE:MAT)American Girl stores offer doll hair salons, weekend brunches, and a photo studio.
(NYSE:BBW)allows guests to participate in a customized teddy bear's creation.
(NYSE:LNY)Rainforest Cafe offers in-store animatronics and glow-in-the-dark caverns.
Disney appears to be borrowing liberally from some of these concepts, down to Rainforest Cafe's interactive trees and a Muppets-based spin on the Build-A-Bear model. One can even argue that the RFID-tagged items are a kissing cousin to the MagiQuest game now popular with wizard wand-toting guests at Great Wolf Resorts
So what? Disney doesn't have to outdo its rivals in innovation -- just improve its existing stores.
The Times article goes on to credit an unlikely catalyst for the makeover: Steve Jobs. Now that the Pixar acquisition has made him a Disney board member and the company's largest individual shareholder, Apple's
Disney is taking this update so seriously that it's considering renaming the stores. Imagination Park is the proposed name, a reworking that opens merchandising opportunities beyond the scope of its famous characters.
It's about to be cool again to walk into a Disney Store. Bring on the pixie dust.
What would you like to see in Imagination Park? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz can usually be found at Walt Disney World. Not today, though. He does own shares in Disney. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.