SM PLACE — When the newly-renovated Santa Monica Place opens this summer, loyal followers of the Walt Disney Company will be treated to a trip to the amusement park in the form of an ambitious retail concept that uses the latest technology to entertain shoppers, encouraging them to stay longer and possibly spend more money.
Disney, with the help of the retailing team at Apple under the guidance of Steve Jobs, is rebooting 340 of its stores in the United States and Europe, as well as opening new ones, including a location in Santa Monica.
“We have infused Disney magic into all elements of this one-of-a-kind retail experience, and have selected prime retail centers to launch the Disney Store of the future,” said Jim Fielding, president of Disney Stores Worldwide. “Special features like the iconic Disney Princess castle with magic mirror and the Disney Store Theater are just two of the amazing elements in the new store that will enrich every child and family’s experience at the Disney Store.”
The chain’s traditional approach of displaying row after row of toys and apparel will be replaced by a high-tech makeover with interactive activities for kids.
Theaters will allow children to watch film clips of their own selection, participate in karaoke contests or chat live with Disney Channel stars via satellite. Computer chips embedded in packaging will activate hidden features. Walk by a “magic mirror” while holding a Princess tiara, for instance, and Cinderella might appear and say something to you.
The Santa Monica store is slated to open in August when the mall remodel is complete.
“The new Disney Store concept is fresh, exciting and experiential — just like the new Santa Monica Place,” said Doug Roscoe, senior manager, property management for Santa Monica Place. “The Disney Store … will be one more exceptional retail experience at our new property.”
The Disney Store chain, introduced in 1987, was initially so successful that the company overexpanded to more than 600 locations. Buffalo alone had five. But consumers overdosed on the animated-character merchandise and by 2002 the chain was losing about $100 million a year.
Judging the upkeep too burdensome and focusing on the safer licensing business, Disney sold the chain to Children’s Place Retail Stores in 2004.
But Children’s Place failed to meet contractual renovation obligations. In March 2008, Disney bought back part of the chain on undisclosed terms and the remaining stores, about 100 of them, were closed.