Sound Lion Retail Store at Disney Springs Closed (and why it matters)
May 1st is a date that is usually accompanied by the sounds of birds chirping, outdoor pools emerging from their winter coverings and ice cream…lots of ice cream! May 1st is now being seen as a date that could become a catalyst to a deviation in the plans at Disney Springs, which once saw a plethora of outside brands open their doors to an adoring public, shift to a period of uncertainty and possible demise.
Disney Springs made the rebranding effort public in March 2013, effectively putting an end to the Downtown Disney legacy which was filled with a very “non-family-friendly” environment as they attempted to compete with the profitable CityWalk at Universal Orlando Resort. The public was excited (to an extent)…as they had already been promised a redevelopment of the entertainment district years before, when Hyperion Wharf was was announced on November 18th, 2010 as the project that would transform the Pleasure Island area into an early twentieth century wharf-themed area with new shopping and dining locations. Plans were delayed and ultimately cancelled due to the belief in-house that a mini face-lift wouldn’t be as effective as a full scale re-imagining of the entire district.
With the initial announcement, Tom Staggs (former Chief Operating Officer and the probably successor of Bob Iger to the CEO post) painted a picture of a full-scale renovation which would include 150 new tenants, two new parking structures and an almost doubling of the retail space available for the enjoyment of the guests. In the four-year timeline between the announcement and present-day, we have seen a few question marks be put into the equation, including the abundance of outside brands who would essentially be setting up shop in their first retail mall that had an over-arching theme.
What was the draw for the outside brands? Would they be successful and profitable? Would the ‘ZARA’s and ‘Kiehl’s’ of the world be able to adapt to a theme park audience that wants something exclusively “Disney” and not what they could find at their local malls?
This brings us back to present day, when rumblings first came over twitter early morning that Sound Lion had closed overnight.
Doing some research into the history of the store, it became apparent that although the brand had been around since 2012, with their first location in Cambridge MA, the questions were there from the beginning as to whether or not this 100% outside brand would have an audience for a higher-end product line that included Beats by Dr Dre and Sennheiser. Visitors to Walt Disney World are in a different demographic than other theme parks, where 80% of the guests are out-of-town travellers and 20% are local, whereas a location like Disneyland boasts the opposite ratio of 20% out-of-town to 80% local. Would this impact the sales when your foot traffic is made up of people who would be wearing Mickey Ears, dressed as princesses and thinking about whether or not they wanted to pay for additional checked luggage space?
With a brand that did very little social media engagement (last tweet and Facebook post was from June 24/15, last Instagram post was 136 weeks ago), the inherited expectation of increased foot traffic with pockets filled with disposal cash, showcased that the initial wave of stores that came into the retail experiment may be on the way out, with replacements being lined up that would suit a more ‘targeted’ demographic that the resort can guarantee a steady flow of.
Although the space will only be boarded up for a short time before a new brand comes in, it’ll make you think what’s next for Disney Springs as more of these situations are likely to come up.