Disney retail stores, like many other venerable chains, have been suffering in recent years. But Disney's got an ace in the hole (or, accurately, on their board): Steve Jobs. Think Apple Store meets Zac Efron. Weird, I know. Updated:
Good old Stevesy runs pretty much the most profitable retail chain in the country, the Apple Store, and coincidentally also owns Pixar—and thus sits on Disney's board. So he
consulted with Disney when they decided to totally redesign their retail store's image, and it shows. From minor details like mobile checkout (employees carry small receipt printers on them) to bigger philosophies like community (there'll be a small theatre, like in Apple Stores) and interactivity (karaoke, touchscreen kiosks, "live chat with Disney stars"), Steve's fingerprints are all over the new concept. Hell, Disney store employees will even carry iPhones (or iPods Touch) to communicate. And that's a good thing, in our opinion: Apple Stores certainly aren't perfect, but they are a decidedly individual and interesting shopping experience, which Disney needs. A Disney rep, apparently a fan of Fox angryface Gordon Ramsay, even described some of the current Children's Place stores (former Disney stores which still sell licensed Disney merch) as "a dog's breakfast."
Update: After speaking with a Disney rep, it looks like a few things need clarification. Steve Jobs did consult with Disney on the project, but only once, so while the new Disney stores do have a clear Apple Store influence, Jobs himself did not have as heavy a hand in their design as I first thought. Sorry for the confusion.
Disney is rebooting 340 of these stores, with a possible flagship store in, of course, Times Square, and is spending about $1 million to do it. They're still working with real estate agents and ironing out the final details, but this could actually work out: Disney + Apple has previously equaled Pixar, and that formula has worked out pretty spectacularly. [NY Times]