By Joseph Menn
This holiday season, more than 300 Disney Stores are putting an old favorite back in the Walt Disney Co. stocking: cash.
The Burbank entertainment company in 2004 sold its problematic U.S. and Canadian retail shops to Children's Place Retail Stores Inc. Now that move is paying off big time. Under terms of the deal, Disney in November started receiving licensing fees equal to 5% of the stores' revenue.
Sales are exceeding expectations, and surging as Christmas approaches. Sales in Disney Stores open at least a year were up 15% in the first 11 months of 2006 and 23% in November, growth that Children's Place attributed to "our merchandise strategies and appetite for popular franchises."
On a recent weekday afternoon at the Glendale Galleria, a dozen customers stood in a fast-moving line to buy plush Mickeys and Minnies, toy automobiles spun off from the movie "Cars" and assorted Princess dolls.
"It's better organized and more adult-friendly," said shopper Hun Lee, 36, who popped in and out with a brace of stuffed mice for his 4-year-old daughter. "The lines used to be ridiculous."
Disney stands to take in more than $30 million in the year to come. That's not much for a company with more than $3 billion in annual profit. But it beats the red ink Disney Stores generated before the chain was jettisoned.