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Disney aims to pique kids' interest with interactive stores

May 17, 2011|By Amy Martinez
  • Angie Oberg, Disney general manager, shows the new Disney Store Theatre at Disney's new store at Bellevue Square in Bellevue, Wash. The theater allows children to pick from more than 50 Disney film trailers, music videos and more to be played on a 12-foot-long, curved screen.
Angie Oberg, Disney general manager, shows the new Disney Store Theatre… (Courtney Blethen Riffkin,…)

SEATTLE — It's no wonder that stores post-recession are working harder to keep themselves at the forefront of shoppers' minds.

Gone are the days of easy credit and soaring home values. Today's price-minded shoppers aim to spend within their means, and they scour the Web for deals.

So if you're Walt Disney Co., and you want to increase the amount of time and money spent inside your stores, you sell the same popular merchandise as before but try to make it an experience.

Take, for example, Disney's new store in Seattle. It lets children design and build a toy car at a table with hanging drills, or wave an artificial bouquet in front of a magic mirror to see a video clip of their favorite princess.

There's also a pixie-dust trail that leads to a small theater where they can watch movie trailers and learn to draw cartoons.

"We're competing for time. Families around the world are time-starved, and shopping as recreation is not as prevalent as it was five years ago," said Jim Fielding, president of Disney Store, the retail merchandising arm of Disney Consumer Products. "We felt we had to create a memory and true Disney experience."

Disney came up with the interactive concepts after taking back the chain's 200-plus locations in North America from the Children's Place Retail Stores in 2008. It introduced the new format at 19 Disney stores worldwide last year and plans 40 openings this year.

All told, Disney has 340-plus locations in Europe, Japan and North America. Eventually, it plans to make all of its stores interactive.

"Disney lives in the discretionary-spend part of the market. It's much more about creating experiential, engaging, interesting places, and if you're not doing that, shoppers cease to spend with you," said Alan Treadgold, head of retail strategy for the Leo Burnett ad agency based in Chicago. "They migrate online to lower-cost retailers."

Martinez writes for the Seattle Times/McClatchy.

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