Disney Brings Famous Character Brands To China
Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh are setting up shop in China.
Walt Disney Co is on track to open its first store in China in fall 2012 and is committed to opening from 25 to 40 stores in the most populous country during the next three years, a top company executive said.
The news comes as Disney, the largest media conglomerate in the world and the owner of many iconic brands such as Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh, looks beyond the United States, Europe and other developed markets for new sources of revenue.
"China is very important to overall Disney company plans, obviously with the launch of the Shanghai Disneyland Park," said Jim Fielding, president of Disney Stores Worldwide. "So, it is probably the newest country that is getting the most focus."
Disney broke ground on the Shanghai Disneyland theme park in April 2011.
The Chinese are not unfamiliar with the Disney brand.
"Because the licensing division has had a presence in China already, there is affinity for the brand and affinity for characters," he said. "The market is ready."
Disney has signed a lease for its first store in Shanghai and is looking at sites in Beijing and other large cities, Fielding said.
"We are focusing on tier-one cities in very high population and tourist locations, very similar to what we look at around the world," Fielding said.
The difference in China will come in the strategy Disney employs to woo customers.
"The product assortment is definitely localized to Chinese consumers and Chinese knowledge because they don't know all the Disney characters that people know in America and in Europe," he said.
For instance, he expects Disney's China stores to carry more products under the Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh labels and fewer Princess Dolls - figurines of female characters from the company's various movies.
Disney refused to shed light on how much it plans to invest in China.
China's increasing wealth and the country's huge population make it an attractive destination for many global companies. While Disney is excited about its prospects in China, it is not as optimistic about other markets.
Disney, which opened its first store in 1987, launched a new retail format in 2010 and has been making a push in the past year to take its retail model to ritzy malls in newer markets on both sides of the Atlantic.