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Disney to Close All Stores in Canada Amid Retail Strategy Shift: Sources

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April 26, 2021, 11:35am

Multiple sources have informed Retail Insider that US-based mass media and entertainment conglomerate Disney will be shutting almost all of its standalone retail stores, including all 18 locations in Canada. Two Canadian locations already shuttered last month. The move comes as Disney re-evaluates its operations amid a challenging time for retail and landlords in North America as the pandemic increasingly shifts consumer shopping patterns to online channels.

Landlords in Canada with properties housing Disney stores are said to have been working with the company on the exit strategy for the past several weeks. Sources said that Disney is paying out monies owed to landlords on the remaining duration for its Canadian leases so as to bypass any potential litigation. The remaining duration of leases for the Disney stores in Canada vary from one year to more than five. Store staff have not yet been notified officially of the Disney store closures according to sources Retail Insider spoke to over the weekend, which means that this article brings with it unfortunate news requiring action. Landlords said that they were not permitted to comment on the record for this story.

Sources tell Retail Insider that the Canadian Disney stores will all shutter by the end of the summer, with one source noting that a date of August 1st had been set for at least one store location in Ontario. Discussions with landlords are said to be ongoing according to another source noting that the landlord is hoping to have one of the storefronts leased to a new tenant by July.

Disney Store Canada Mickey
Disney Store Canada Mickey. Photo: Dustin Fuhs

One source noted that in the United States, Disney is expected to keep a handful of stores open including a flagship location on Times Square in Manhattan. Over the weekend word began getting out on several US stores that will shutter, and we’re told that there will be many more. Our sources based in Canada were otherwise unable to confirm other details pertaining to global Disney store location closures.

Most of the Disney stores in Canada are in the 4,000-to-5,000-square-foot range, with one in Winnipeg being under 3,000 square feet and one at West Edmonton Mall spanning more than 5,600 square feet. Landlords will look to fill these spaces at a challenging time when many brands are seeking smaller retail spaces. At the same time, some of the Disney stores are in exceptional locations in some of the country’s top malls, and will be leased quickly. The current Yorkdale Disney store was already expected to be demolished for new retail space according to a building application. The new space would be geared towards luxury brands, being across from recently opened Louis Vuitton, Golden Goose and Thom Brown stores.

Disney’s Canadian stores are located in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, and Manitoba.

Eight of Disney’s stores in Canada are located in Ontario. That includes stores in the Toronto area (at CF Toronto Eaton Centre, Yorkdale Shopping Centre, Scarborough Town Centre, Vaughan Mils, Upper Canada Mall), Hamilton (CF Lime Ridge), Ottawa (CF Rideau Centre), and London (CF Masonville Place). A ninth Ontario location at Square One in Mississauga shut last month.

In Alberta, Disney currently operates four stores, two of which are located in Edmonton at West Edmonton Mall and Kingsway Mall as well as two stores in Calgary at CF Market Mall and Southcentre. A location at CrossIron Mills near Calgary shut last month. In British Columbia, Disney’s three storefronts include CF Pacific Centre in Vancouver, Metropolis at Metrotown in Burnaby and Guildford Town Centre in Surrey. Disney also operates its smallest Canadian location at CF Polo Park in Winnipeg.

Landlord Cadillac Fairview is left most exposed to the closures with 11 of the 18 Disney stores being housed in its Canadian shopping centre properties.

Disney never launched an e-commerce presence in Canada despite promises to do so, nor did it secure warehouse space for product fulfillment in terms of ship-to-store or otherwise. If consumers ordered online from the company’s global website, taxes and duties would be charged. One source noted that several of the Canadian Disney store units, including the CF Toronto Eaton Centre and West Edmonton Mall locations, were among the company’s top-selling stores. 

On March 3, Disney announced that it was planning on focusing on its commerce business while at the same time reducing its brick-and-mortar footprint.  A total of 60 North American locations were announced to close including the Square One and CrossIron Mills locations in Canada.

“Over the next year Disney will focus on providing a more seamless, personalized and franchise-focused ecommerce experience through its shopDisney platform which will be complemented by greater integration with Disney Parks apps and social media platforms,” Disney said in a statement in March. “This will be coupled with an assortment of new and elevated merchandise from the Company’s full range of brands, including adult apparel collections and artist collaborations, trend-forward streetwear, premium home products and collectibles.”

“While consumer behaviour has shifted toward online shopping, the global pandemic has changed what consumers expect from a retailer,” said Stephanie Young, President, Consumer Products Games and Publishing in a statement last month. “Over the past few years, we’ve been focused on meeting consumers where they are already spending their time, such as the expansion of Disney store shop-in-shops around the world. We now plan to create a more flexible, interconnected e-commerce experience that gives consumers easy access to unique, high-quality products across all our franchises.”

Disney said last month that guests will continue to have access to Disney shopping experiences in over 600 Disney Parks stores, shop-in-shops, lifestyle and outlet locations, as well as third party retailers around the world.

The Walt Disney Company reacquired the Disney Store business from Children’s Place Retail Stores Inc. in 2008, with 231 locations being purchased in Canada and the United States. Operating under the Disney Consumer Products division of the company until 2018, the stores were merged under a new division called Parks, Experiences and Consumer Products, which was previously under the leadership of Bob Chapek. Mr. Chapek was named the Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company in February 2020 and subsequently named Josh D’Amaro as his successor in the Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products. The Vice-President of Stores for North America is Jonathan Storey, who assumed his role in 2012 after previously leading the marketing for Disney Store Europe’s e-commerce and brick/mortar retail across 120 stores in the UK, France, Spain, Italy, and Portugal.

Article Author

Craig Patterson
Craig Patterson
Now located in Toronto, Craig is a retail analyst and consultant at the Retail Council of Canada. He's also the Director of Applied Research at the University of Alberta School of Retailing in Edmonton. He has studied the Canadian retail landscape for the past 25 years and he holds Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws Degrees. He is also President & CEO of Vancouver-based Retail Insider Media Ltd.

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41 COMMENTS

  1. Disney is very foolish. Out of sight, out of mind. People are going to forget about going to the Parks. I personally have a problem letting a machine pick out the expression on a stuffed animal. We have had boxes arrive smashed. I was very happy when the stores reopened. The poor cast members! Very sad.

    • No one is forgetting about their giant amusements parks all over the world just because their store at the mall closed. Disney will do just fine with out without brink and mirror stores and they’ll do plenty fine wthere or not YOU personally shop with them

  2. This is the worst news ever. We were so happy when the stores came to Canada especially one in our home town. We used to order from shop Disney but it started to get to expensive with shipping, exchange rates and custom fees. I am a DVC member as well so it was nice to get the perks that were offered to us as members once in awhile. I will say that once the Canadian stores close, Disney will lose my business as a shopper. So very disappointing. They want Canadians to support them but they aren’t will to help us out but allowing us to enjoy shopping at stores in Canada. I hope all Canadians stop supporting shop Disney online. I understand times are difficult during this pandemic but what about when things open up again. People won’t be able to afford shopping from the US site and pay all the extra fees involved. I feel so sorry for all the staff.

    • It’s not just Canada, they’re closing the American stores, too, with the exception of locations like Times Square.

      • I presume Rizzoli is just being melodramatic. “If Disney doesn’t think we should have stores, they why let us have anything!” But it’s of course not just Canadian stores being targeted, US ones are as well. Disney+ is unlikely to ever go away, given the profit it generates.

  3. Not overly surprised… Stores were always full with a lot of kids looking at the toys… But they were so over priced you can see where they were losing money…

  4. Who Cares?Where will you be able to buy over priced Disney merchandise now? The answer is still the same!Who cares?The real question is when will the theme parks open again? And where can I purchase a cardboard frozen pizza for $45?

  5. That’s sad… It is a bunch of overpriced toys, but the Disney experience makes up for it. Those stores are special, as is everything else Disney does.

    Disney World it is.

  6. The article states that the staff have not yet been told about the store closures. What a horrible way to find out that your job will be soon non-existent from an online article.
    The staff should have been told first.

    • Yup !!!! It’s completely unacceptable!! I used to work at a Disney store and I got in touch with some of my old staff members.. they have no clue .. dispicable

      • Most of The Disney Stores closed in the last two years have had three weeks notice, because Disney doesn’t admit the closures until the very last minute.

        Since the closures are happening in the late summer, Retail Insider’s article is actually giving all of these Ohanas a few months notice, so that they have an appropriate time to say goodbye.

  7. This is very disappointing news. The Stores were the only place where you can find a good deal. As mentioned in a previous comment, shop Disney is too pricy with the delivery and fees. Not worth it imo. Another retailer taken by the pandemic.

  8. I tried to order a bathsuit shirt and trucks online. $60 for the suit, $65 for shipping USD – like WTF??? Finally just drive to the store, and it cost $20 less than shipping lol. That why they dying brand!

  9. I don’t think we can blame it on the pandemic ! This is the excuse everyone is using for everything now ! I can agree it is hurting business’s all over but come on let’s be honest here ,how many years have these same business’s been making astronomical profits ! Paying their CEO’s millions in salaries and bonuses and not putting anything away for emergency funds like the average person is supposed to be doing !
    I see it as greed pure and simple , everyone has jacked up their prices , landlords raised the cost of leases consumers are fed up and refusing to pay those prices and therefore the business’s are closing the doors . I overheard a guy today saying he had a couple of shipments coming in that were already resold that he was making a four to four hundred and fifty percent profit off of after expenses ,if that isn’t greed I don’t know what is !

    • I think you’re confusing greed with capitalism, which didn’t develop naturally, and was created by people. We created the very system that leads to things like this happening. We are the cause. It’s horrible it happens but we can’t play the victim or place blame on others when collectively people have bowed down to capitalism and allowed it to perpetuate and these are the results. People still use Amazon, people still buy Apple Products, people still line up at Walmart, and people complain about these companies while 100% supporting them and their bottom line.

    • You do realize that the world outside is made up of more than straight, white, males, and that they aren’t the be all and end all of representation, or is your ego really that fragile?

  10. Lets hope they fix the issue with not shipping internationally with their Shop Disney site. Right now Canadians cannot have things shipped to them.

  11. Really disappointing, especially given the fact that Disney has done NOTHING to improve the online shopping experience for Canadians. Their shipping options and prices are ridiculous and horribly overpriced! Then throw in the fact that we mist also pay duties?? Really sad!

  12. Maybe if they had more for adults, they wouldn’t of suffered. Adults wear and collect Disney. Not everyone buys for children. Used to go once a month to buy something for my collection of Goofy. Now it’s twice a year cause they have nothing I would buy.

  13. We’re all in this together..ya right! …Unfortunately for us ..Disney is all about profits…They couldn’t care less about the children who looked forward to go shopping at a mall with their parents…because they knew they could at least go to the Disney store…Now they have nothing. Disney is successfully killing the dreams of millions of Canadian children.

  14. It’s cool that they’re closing the stores and all but they need to make a .ca site because buying from the US site you have to pay convergent fees and then when it gets to Canada you have to pay the extra taxes that comes with Canada.

  15. Very sad. We enjoyed shopping at the Disney Store for our grandchildren. It is especially dissapointing in these times when we cannot travel to the Disney parks. We will miss them.

  16. This is not good! Closing the Disney stores in Canada is a real big mistake. People are not going to pay the shipping fees, it’s just to expensive. There is nothing like going into a Disney store and actually picking and seeing what you are buying. I also have a Disney Christmas tree,what happens to those people who collect the ornaments.

  17. Completely horrible news. I LOVE my local stores and was there all the time- not just browsing but buying stuff, talking to the staff, etc. Not only are we losing the high-quality merch they had (Toys R Us, Walmart, etc. all have MUCH lower quality stuff), but we’re losing the quality displays, the songs played overhead, the viewscreen, and more. I used to love how they played film clips on the wall, and now without warning, I’ll likely never see it again because they haven’t been showing it during the pandemic.

    All that poor staff- my locations had some pretty big turnover (implying wages and treatment weren’t great), but holy cow this sucks for them. More people replaced by “online shipping” and people are wondering why the remaining overworked staff in other places are so surly.

  18. I love everything about Disney – except the prices. I am very upset that they’re closing their stores here in Canada. During the “travel restrictions” I went to the Disney store just to look around – it made me happy. I buy something each time I was there – as a gift for someone – or something for myself. Seems like it’s one sad thing after another.

    • Here is an update from The Walt Disney Company. They did not say anything about them closing all 18 stores. But I did hear we are losing the location in Manitoba. The Polo Park Mall location is closing soon. Other did not confirm. The other 2 Canadian stores that were on the 60 North American closures were Mississauga Ontario, And Rocky View Alberta. We will have further details. If it was closing, It would had the “NOW IT’S TIME TO SAY GOODBYE!” and the Mickey symbol will be red.

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