Disney Store says it plans to speed up the opening of its interactive stores, announcing more than 40 new locations for this year.
The new store type, first unveiled in July of last year, includes plenty of places for hands-on play, including the chance for kids to build toy custom cars, see themselves as princesses in magical mirrors, and follow trails of pixie dust throughout the merchandise.
Based on the expanded plan, Disney now says it expects to have 60 new concept stores in 16 major markets in North America, as well as eight countries.
Disney isn't alone. Such chains as Macy's, Subway, Target, Zumiez, Saks and Urban Outfitters have recently announced stepped-up expansion plans, which retail experts say is another sign that the economic recovery is on solid footing.
"Everything changed with Christmas last year," Garrick Brown, director of retail research, ChainLinks Retail Advisers, tells Marketing Daily. "People expected sales gains of 2 to 3% for the holidays, and when they came in at 5% or 6%, stores were again under tremendous pressure to start expanding, with growth plans up 30% from the previous year."
The recession was brutal on stores, so there's still a glut: Leasing and expansion activity fell 70% during 2009, and 2010 was tough enough to spell curtains for such big chains as Loehman's, Blockbuster, Movie Gallery, Gracious Home and Jennifer Convertibles.) "Blockbuster alone means there's 4 to 5 million square feet of retail space back on the market."
But the new cycle has helped strengthen chains, he says. "Take Starbucks, which closed something like 900 stores. Now, they are opening 100, but it is being much more diligent about demographics and site selections -- it's smarter growth."
The comeback is strongest in urban retail, he says, with Washington D.C., San Francisco, New York, Boston, San Diego, San Jose/South Bay, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Seattle and Pittsburgh emerging as the healthiest markets.
Disney says it will open new and remodeled locations this year in Orlando and Pembroke Pines, Fla.; Edmonton and Calgary in Canada; Cincinnati; McAllen and Houston in Texas; St. Louis, and Roseville and Sherman Oaks, Calif.
The company also said it would remodel the original Disney Store location at the Glendale Galleria in Glendale, Calif. in spring of 2012, as part of the retail chain's 25th anniversary.