So, we visited the new Disney Outlet Store yesterday to see what it would be like. What we saw was dissapointing, depressing, and possibly an ominous sign of things to come.
Dissaponting because it is essentialy a Disney Store. It sold what appeared to be the identical items to any other Disney Store that is currently open. T-shirts, toys, plushes, assorted do-dads, a couple of snow globes. The only thing we saw that was missing were the audio and videos. And it didn't look like anything was discounted either - pretty strange for being at an "outlet" store.
Depressing because the biggest difference between this store and every other Disney Store I've ever seen was the theming. There was none. NONE! No display in the window. No display along the walls by the ceiling. There was a plushie pile, but it was tiny. Over the plushie pile was a single monitor instead of the video bank. There were no other monitors in the store. The shelves were cheap and looked like they were going to collapse. Calling this a Disney Store is like calling Six Flags Astroworld "Disneyland".
The grand opening "special" was pretty standard for Disney Store grand openings (the DS in Columbia, MD re-opened while we were there). Free baloons and free hat with $30 purchase. Except in Columbia they also had visits from Mickey and Minnie, and a huge Mickey sitting in a chair that you could enter for a drawing to win - and which kids were posing in front of for pictures.
Ominous because none of this was done by Disney. The Children's Place opened this store, and plans to open five more just like it. Five more cheap, but hardly inexpensive, immitations of what a Disney Store was. The recent reports of Fullscreen versions of The Incredibles only being available is another indication that The Childrens Place is targeting the stores more narrowly than Disney did. It seems clear they do not have "The Disney Touch" that the stores were infused with when Disney first opened them, and I think there is a good chance this will be a worse failure for them than it had become for Disney.
I was never a fan of Pressler when he was head of Parks, but there is no question that he knew what he was doing when he created the Disney Store. He created a family store, with stuff for adults, kids, and kids-at-heart - much like what Walt built the theme parks on. Disney weakened the stores for years after Paul lost control of them, and now The Childrens Place will weaken them even further. Quite honestly, this is a disaster for the Disney brand name, although as a small footnote of the grand opening sign reminds us - there is no relationship between the store and the Walt Disney Company.