Disney has confirmed on its website (ShopDisney.com) that it will shutter almost all of its Canadian locations next month 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 additional Canadian store closures after a full exit was announced for British Columbia last month. After the next round of store closures, Disney will only have three remaining store locations in Canada, all in the Greater Toronto Area.
Liquidation sales in the next 10 locations confirmed to close will start on Monday July 26 according to a source with Disney who was not authorized to speak on the record. The 10 stores are expected to shut permanently either on August 6 or thereabouts.
Store employees in the 10 soon-to-close locations, known as ‘cast members’, were uninformed until now and for the most part were telling shoppers that the ‘rumours’ of the Canadian exit were ‘untrue’ and that it was “business as usual”. The official language will change as liquidation sales commence across the country except in three stores in the Toronto Area.
The newest round of Disney locations slated to close are in Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario. In Alberta, Disney will close all stores 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 and it is also included in this round of closures.
In Ontario, five Disney stores set to close early next month include Toronto area locations (Yorkdale Shopping Centre, Upper Canada Mall), Hamilton (CF Lime Ridge), Ottawa (CF Rideau Centre), and London (CF Masonville Place). For now, Disney has chosen to keep its CF Toronto Eaton Centre, Scarborough Town Centre and Vaughan Mills stores open after today’s announcement. Insiders are already saying that it’s likely that these three locations will also be confirmed to close by mid-August.
Given the extended lockdowns in Ontario for mall-based retailers that ended recently, Ontario Disney store closure announcements were said to be delayed 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. Shopping centres in Ontario were permitted to reopen in the province on June 30.
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.
Retail Insider made the initial 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. Prior to publishing this article on Friday, Retail Insider notified several retailers that they should immediately target Disney employees to hire in the 10 stores confirmed to be closing in Canada as part of the next round.
One of the current Disney ‘cast members’ interviewed by Retail Insider said that they had come to the acceptance that Disney was exiting its Canadian store operations after Retail Insider announced it in April. Some employees have already secured new jobs since then and are working at the Disney stores until they close in order to take advantage of severance moneys. Several cast members reached out to Retail Insider to thank us for giving them the heads up that a search for a new job would be a necessity.
On Wednesday of this week, Disney shut more stores in the United States in addition to last days of the BC stores. 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 e–commerce business while at the same time reducing its brick-and-mortar footprint.
Initially, 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.