Early yesterday morning, a small group of Disney D23 members were invited to visit the all new Disney Store Times Square before it opened its doors to the public for a private shopping experience and in-store continental breakfast. With the store operating in soft mode since last Thursday, Disney Store President Jim Fielding was on-hand to celebrate with the Disney D23 members as was Jodi Benson, the voice of The Little Mermaid’s Ariel and Toy Story 3‘s Barbie.
With check-in for the event commencing at 7:30 am sharp, guests were ushered into the lower level of the store which features a combination of New York City-themed merchandise, exclusive to the Disney Store Times Square location, as well as seasonal Disney Store merchandise and that aimed towards an older demographic, but more on that later. At the event’s official start time of 8 am, guests were invited to journey upstairs to the more ‘traditional’ ‘Imagination Park’ concept store which is where Fielding addressed the crowd from the store’s gazebo which serves as the 350 square foot Disney Store Theater.
Fielding talked about the store’s genesis in August of 2008 and how when he first saw the location at 1540 Broadway, former home to the world’s largest Virgin Megastore, he knew he had to have the space. According to Fielding, it took nearly a year for Disney Store to obtain the lease for the store because the space was in such high demand. He spoke of the nearly 250 cast members, some of which had returned to the company, it took to conduct interviews, hire and train new staff for the store which maintains 24 hour shifts to keep the store in tip-top shape. Although the store is open until Midnight most days, Fielding noted that they have had to keep running the store to 1 am due to large groups of guests still remaining inside. He mentioned that by year-end, they will have opened 19 of the new concept stores with an expected 30 – 40 in 2011, including two in Canada (but declined to identify where specifically). Surprisingly, the most profitable store worldwide is the Paris on the Champs-Élysées store according to Fielding, but he joked that the Times Square store calls Paris daily to make sure they’re beating them.
Of course Fielding spoke to the store itself, which consists of two floors, although the Virgin Megastore it partially replaced was four. He explained that the mezzanine from the former store was removed, resulting in a longer escalator ride and that half of the fourth floor, which houses the store’s internal offices, was also removed, allowing the store to have its high ceilings. About 80% of the merchandise found on the lower floor, according to Fielding, is unique to Disney Store Times Square while the upstairs is what he referred to as ‘”Imagination Park” on steroids.’ The ‘Imagination Park’ portion at Disney Store Times Square is roughly twice the size of the norm so far, all told easily making it the largest Disney Store in North America. The store is so large in fact that its Disney Princess castle is 20 feet tall and features not one, but two of the magic mirrors.
After tackling a brief Q&A session in which Fielding responded to questions along the lines of the current location of the Mickey and Minnie Mouse figures that once hung over the entrance to the former World of Disney store (they’re in storage at Walt Disney Imagineeering as the World of Disney was operated by Disney Parks and Resorts, not Disney Consumer Products as Disney Store is), he introduced Jodi Benson to the attending crowd.