Monday, January 24, 2011

Disney Bringing Magic to Perimeter Mall

Disney Imagination Park will open this spring at Perimeter Mall. The store will open in the former Bachrach mens store on the first level across from Starbucks, and down from Charlotte Russe, at the cusp of the Macy's wing. The first of its kind in the state, "Imagination Park" is the culmination of years of R&D that included building an actual (replica) retail store in a warehouse in L.A. to test design and retailing elements of the concept. Steve Jobs gained a seat on the board of Disney when his Pixar Animation Studios was purchased by Disney in 2006. His creation of Apple's retail stores has been seen as one of the major turning points for the company. Apple stores generate some of the highest sales per square foot of any retailer. This know-how and retailing expertise gave Jim Fielding, President of Disney Stores Worldwide, reason enough to include Jobs and his team in the planning and execution of the new stores.

Rather than be just another store selling Disney products, the goal of Imagination Park is to make the stores more interactive and inviting to customers. Features like a "magic mirror" that might respond to certain objects being held or worn in front of it, and theaters to watch Disney's shows and films, are some of the buzzed about store features. In addition, there was talk early on in the stores' creation that there may be opportunities to talk to your favorite Disney star by satellite from the stores.

Like many Atlantans, I recall The Disney Stores of the 90s, with curved glass windows meant to look like movie reels. These stores were all over Atlanta in malls like Northlake and Gwinnett Place. The first Disney Store opened in 1987 and grew to a chain of many hundred locations by the mid 90s. The chain was started by the Walt Disney Company but was operated by The Children's Place through their subsidiary Hoop Holdings/Hoop Retail Stores LLC from November 2004 until May 2008. In March 2008, Hoop Holdings filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and by late May, the company was sold back to the Walt Disney Company.

Currently Disney stores are located at North Point Mall in Alpharetta, Town Center Mall in Kennesaw and Discover Mills in Duluth. If I recall correctly, both North Point and Town Center have had Disney Stores since the 90s but the stores at both malls are in new locations and each sport the store's design circa 2005. The first of the Imagination Park stores opened in Southern California last May and a flagship store in New York's Times Square opened in November.

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