Disney Confirmed to be Shutting All Stores in British Columbia as Phase 1 of a Canadian Exit

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Disney has confirmed on its website that it will shut all of its stores in British Columbia after Retail Insider first reported on the the retailer’s full Canadian exit in April of this year. Prior to Friday, Disney would not confirm any Canadian store closures. Store employees, known as ‘cast members’, were uninformed and for the most part were telling shoppers that the ‘rumours’ of the Canadian exit were ‘untrue’.

The Disney store map online shows that the three Disney stores in British Columbia, including locations at CF Pacific Centre in Vancouver, Metropolis at Metrotown in Burnaby and Guildford Town Centre in Surrey will be shutting permanently. A source with the company says that the stores are expected to close on or about July 1st.

Retail Insider was informed by multiple sources in April of this year that all Disney stores would be shutting in Canada, one of which was a major landlord not permitted to speak on the record. It would be highly unlikely that Disney would choose to only exit British Columbia which means that the next phase of store closures will likely soon be revealed for both Alberta and Manitoba. In Alberta, Disney’s stores are located in Edmonton at West Edmonton Mall and Kingsway Mall as well as in Calgary at CF Market Mall and Southcentre. In Manitoba Disney operates a single store at CF Polo Park in Winnipeg. Screengrab from Friday, June 18th, 2021

Given the extended lockdowns in Ontario for mall-based retailers without exterior entrances, Ontario Disney store closure announcements are likely to be delayed until July so that the retailer has the opportunity to hold clearance sales while at the same time bringing back ‘cast members’ to work in stores prior to their termination. The eight Ontario Disney stores include Toronto area locations (CF Toronto Eaton Centre, Yorkdale Shopping Centre, Scarborough Town Centre, Vaughan Mills, Upper Canada Mall), Hamilton (CF Lime Ridge), Ottawa (CF Rideau Centre), and London (CF Masonville Place).

Sources familiar with the situation told Retail Insider that there is anger among Disney’s ‘cast members’ and store managers following the British Columbia announcement — employees were only informed on Thursday of this week that the three stores in the province would be shutting in two weeks. This followed denials by Disney management that Retail Insider’s April report on Canadian store closures was factual.

Retail Insider made the store closing announcement in April partly to give employees time to attempt to secure alternative employment, noting that Disney typically makes such announcements shortly before stores actually shutter. After our report in April we were informed that several retailers were reaching out to Disney employees who are considered to be highly desirable employees because of their personalities and training.

Disney Store at Guildford Town Centre – Photo by Lee Rivett

On Wednesday of this week, Disney shut a number of stores in the United States and many more are expected to close in the coming months. Disney is said to be re-evaluating its operations amid a challenging time for retail as consumer shopping patterns shift to online channels. On March 3, Disney announced that it was planning on focusing on its ecommerce 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 (Mississauga) and CrossIron Mills (Calgary area) locations in Canada.

Earlier this year, mall landlords in Canada were said to have been working with Disney on an exit strategy which involved Disney paying out the remaining duration for its Canadian leases which in some cases had a duration of several years. This would allow the company to bypass any potential litigation — a situation which happened in 2017 when Cadillac Fairview sued Starbucks after the coffee company shut its Teavana storefronts.

Disney never launched e-commerce in Canada, 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. 

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 as the Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products.

We’ll follow up on this story when we are able to confirm more details from official channels on Disney’s exit from Canada.

Article Author

Craig Patterson
Located in Toronto, Craig is the Editor-in-Chief of Retail Insider and President/CEO of Retail Insider Media Ltd. He is also a retail analyst and consultant, Director of Applied Research at the University of Alberta School of Retailing in Edmonton, and consultant to the Retail Council of Canada. He has studied the Canadian retail landscape for over 25 years and he holds Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws Degrees.

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