January 11, 2011, 1:11 PM

Disney uncovers its store magic

Mobile point of sale devices can drive up conversions and margins, the retailer says.

Lead Photo

Shoppers can now walk into many Disney Stores, choose their favorite Disney character toys or apparel, and complete a purchase with a credit card without bothering to stop at the checkout counter. That ease of shopping, along with other features in redesigned Disney Stores, has helped to boost store traffic, sales and profit margins by 20%, says Stephen Finney, senior vice president of global retail operations at The Walt Disney Co.’s Disney Store retail chain.

“Over 90% of our store guests in North America and Europe said the new store design has brought them closer to the Disney brand,” Finney said today, citing a Disney survey during a presentation at the National Retail Federation’s annual conference and trade expo in New York. The NRF is a retail industry trade group for store retailers.

Disney operates more than 230 stores in North America and more than 100 in Europe. It also operates Disney brand stores in Japan under a licensing agreement with Oriental Land Co. Ltd.

In a $50 million technology upgrade over the last three years, Disney has been modernizing its stores to “infuse Disney magic” and make them more fun, interactive and easier to shop, Finney said. The program has led to upgrades in 50 stores so far, with the retailer expecting to finish the remainder this year. In addition to the mobile point-of-sale service, the stores also feature digital marketing signs with content downloaded from a central location and catered to each location. Each store, for example, receives content in its local language and that relates to local store events. Another new feature is a “magical mirror” that lets children see a talking image of a Disney character.

The mobile point-of-sale system was on display at Oracle Corp.’s NRF exhibit booth, where a pop-up Disney store featuring Disney merchandise demonstrated the retailer’s use of Oracle Retail software technology. Disney Store employees wielded specially modified iPod touch devices that let them take orders from shoppers and either complete the sale on the spot with a credit card swipe or, for cash purchases, print out a receipt that the shopper would take to the checkout counter.

The iPod touch devices were encased in shells featuring a credit card swipe tool from Infinite Peripherals Inc. The devices are also designed to integrate with separate devices for printing receipts.

In addition to making checkout quicker and more flexible for shoppers, Finney said the mobile point-of-sale devices enable Disney store associates to present to shoppers the full range of 5,000 products available through DisneyStore.com, instead of being limited to the 1,200 items available in a typical store.  “Now we can offer 5,000 products in our stores, too,” he said.

Finney, speaking in a hall packed with representatives of large mass merchants as well as smaller specialty retailers, warned that the latter need to innovate to make set themselves apart from their larger rivals. “If specialty retailers don’t innovate, we’ll lose out,” he said. “The outcome is likely to be tragic. The story will end with villains holding the keys to our kingdom.”

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