Target and Disney Partnership is the Convergence of Growing Trends.


Last week, Target announced they would be partnering with Disney to bring 25 Disney Stores into select Target locations starting in October. 40 more locations will follow by October of 2020. The new partnership is the convergence of two sweeping trends in retail: brand experience stores-within-stores, and a focus on fun, thematic attractions in the retail environment.

With the rising threat of eCommerce, retailers are trying new and innovative ways to draw customers back into their stores. In his well-known 2018 op-ed “The End of Amazon”, Retail Prophet Doug Stephens opined that the fun of shopping in physical retail stores could be the key element eCommerce giants like Amazon are overlooking:

“Amazon is purpose-built to do one thing and one thing only; to deliver the largest selection of products with the greatest level of speed and convenience… period. The problem is that we, as human beings, don’t merely shop to acquire products. Not all the time anyway. We also shop to discover new things, to socialize with friends and to entertain ourselves. We shop for the thrill of the hunt and the associated dopamine rush to our brains when we find it. Amazon seemingly has no interest in these less transactional elements. Shopping on Amazon remains a solitary, static and sullen activity: a Sears catalogue on digital steroids.”

Since then, we’ve seen a number of like-minded retailers try new and innovative approaches to amp-up the thrill of the in-store experience. Providing a fun atmosphere and a constantly changing environment gives customers a reason to keep coming back.

Earlier this year, The North Face created a retail lab and brand experience store at their flagship Brooklyn, NY location. The store is focused less on the transaction, and more on getting customers to interact with the brand – which, of course, is measured and used to shape future directions for the store and the company itself. The North Face is constantly rotating displays in and out to see what gets customers engaged. It’s “curated, personalized and fluid, meaning it won’t look the same way from one month to the next,” says Mark Parker, The North Face’s VP of Direct to Consumer.

In April, we wrote about a similar strategy through a collaboration between Macy’s and Story, as Macy’s brought on Story founder Rachel Shechtman to reinvent the in-store feel. Shechtman’s brainchild, Story, specializes in curating highly themed collections, completely reinventing their store every couple of months. Now Macy’s has dedicated 1,500 square feet inside many of their locations for these rotating Story “stores within stores” – enough to give Macy’s a completely new feel every 60 days, and give customers a new reason to visit.

Even Amazon themselves have been taking a stab at this strategy recently by growing the footprint of their Amazon Treasure Truck experiment – a truck that offers 1 product per day with a buy-online-pickup-in-store shopping model. Customers are often greeted with employees in costume and a themed presentation around the product of the day, in a party-like atmosphere.

Disney could, no doubt, bring a similar constantly-refreshing thematic element to the store-within-a-store model at Target, as new Disney, Pixar and Marvel films have their own associated look, feel and audience draw.

This should only be further enhanced behind the power of the new Disney Plus service, their upcoming answer to Netflix, which has already seen huge preorder numbers. Newly launching television programs and growing brand ubiquity will no doubt lead to new themes, new merchandise and more sales. If applied correctly, it gives customers a good reason to stop by and see what’s new when they are at Target. It will be interesting to see how far they take it.

The partnership has many other advantages, as well. A significant market share opened up when Toys R Us went under last year, and parents with young children will no doubt find themselves opening their wallets for both Disney and Target within one convenient trip.

On the flip side, for Disney, their retail stores have suffered due to the shrinking foot traffic in shopping malls. Getting into a big box store like Target gets them back in front of shoppers again.

All-in-all this looks like a brilliant move from both sides. We’ll certainly be watching to see how these roll out in stores and how they leverage the opportunity to deliver a compelling joint brand experience that encourages customers to keep coming back.

What do you think about the partnership between Disney and Target? Who benefits from the partnership more? Do you think it will be a draw for customers, or just another part of the store? We’d love to hear what you think. Sound off on social media now and join the conversation.