The Diz Biz
Page 3 of 8
Beanie Babies and Pins
TDS were quick to jump on the Beanie Baby craze, issuing dozens of the small plush toys, until their market became saturated and parents quickly discovered that kids had no more space in their bedroom for the critters and that the obsession was distinctly unhealthy for young kids. As usual, just as one fad faded, another sprang up, this time driven by Merchandise at the parks and resorts; namely pin trading. These metal objects have massive profit margins compared with production costs, (although sales costs are high due to the number of cast members required to sell, fill and promote the lines) and have a greater scope for individuality than the character-driven beanies.
However, the stores were slow to develop this opportunity. As the parks continued to cultivate the demand, the stores simply sat back. Once the stores decided that the time was right to launch their range, the issue was plagued with guest dissatisfaction and supply problems that kept guests away. The lessons learnt at the parks, such as resellers purchasing all of the limited editions and massive queues on the day of issue were not communicated to Consumer Products by the resorts. Some stores stocked their display units as soon as the pins arrived, instead of waiting for issue day and others allowed cast members to purchase all available pins, leaving collectors queuing outside stores that had simply no stock whatsoever.
Many analysts claim that the Disney pin market is saturated, as virtually every division joins in. I disagree, as the days when a collector bought every pin disappeared long before the rest of the Company jumped onboard the bandwagon. Traders have always been selective and that is why there is such a tremendous amount of diversity amongst the pins available. However, TDS is not inventive enough to create unique and appropriate lines. The recent musical series failed to stimulate collectors and many stores had all 100-plus pins in stock and half price in the post-Christmas sale. The design team at TDS needs to create images that guests desire and work closely with other Disney business groups to ensure cross-promotion and synergy. Most guests cannot travel to the parks on a regular basis to trade, and TDS should be an excellent opportunity to develop pintrading sessions. This has been attempted at many locations, but the stores design and size are not conducive for people standing around aimlessly, talking and trading whilst other guests browse. TDS should be working with mall operators to take the trading out onto the mall walkways or even independent locations, into environments that can cope with crowds of guests. This would encourage a community feeling (one of the main reasons many guests visit the parks every weekend to trade), build new friendships and spread the Disney message. Launching new pins on that day and promoting a small group of cast members, as Super Traders and experts would create extra sales and breed success. This should be a "Win-win" situation.
Survival of the Fittest
The survival of TDS needs to be tied to innovation. Product lines should cycle regularly to ensure repeat guest visits by keeping the product fresh and vibrant. To often product remains on the shelf for months at a time with no new seasonal or promotional ranges. Try different variations of popular lines. Create bigger tie-ins with other divisions. Utilise seasonal theming internally. The recent tie-up with Hasbro has produced a toy range that is vastly superior to the merchandise offered by the previous licensee, Mattel. Why does not Hasbro offer TDS-exclusive merchandise? Few retailers could meet the demand for Stitch product, but it can still be found in sufficient quantities at TDS. A recent trip to Disneyland for New Year confirmed that Stitch is by far the character of choice amongst children right now. The success of Disneys Lilo & Stitch pins also shows a significant following amongst adults (including Rebekah and me, as I found Stitch to be the most engaging Disney character since Simba and his crew in Disneys Lion King).
Cast member training needs to be returned to that experienced under the Pressler era. Paul was a consumer products genius and a great loss to the Company, despite the fact that he was singled out as the villain for many Disney enthusiasts. He knew instinctively what guests wanted and the product line-up was superior to that offered today. Regional variation is apparent, as the European stores produce a significant portfolio of product that is not available elsewhere. This reduces profitability, as economies of scale are not available. The disposal of TDSs Japanese operations demonstrated a shortsightedness that is rarely apparent from Michael Eisner. The Japanese are obsessive about Disney and turning the operation over to the Oriental Land Company will prevent the Company promoting their U.S. activities. Few people realise that less than 10% of the Japanese public travel abroad, and considering the phenomenal GDP of Japan, many would choose southern California or Florida as their first destination of choice. A visit to the Tokyo Disney Resort would confirm for any Disney enthusiast, the superior spending power of the Japanese as they buy gifts and treasures of their visit for family and friends.
I continue to visit the various London TDS on a weekly basis, if not just to be surrounded by images of the Company I admire and respect. I could not imagine a life without Disney and although TDS no longer meets the high levels of guest satisfaction that can be experienced when in contact with other Disney divisions, I enjoy browsing and watching the snippets of forthcoming attractions shown on the projection systems. I believe that the Company has lost its focus on a format that must be more dynamic and fluid in the current retailing marketplace that needs to constantly evolve and adapt to guest requirements. We are becoming increasingly fickle in our consumer choices and TDS needs to wake up and realise that guests are not motivated and excited by their current offerings. The bright light of Disney synergy, so trumpeted by Michael over a decade ago, has gone dim. I only pray that there is life after Pressler as at present, that does not appear to be the case.
In future DisBiz articles, I hope to offer an insight into the European TDS operations and ask whether the winding up of the Disney Club is the right decision.
Please join in the debate on the Message Boards; is their a future for the Disney Stores and if so, what would you like to see happen.
Massive Christmas billboard on top of Union Square TDS
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