Disney Springs' World of Disney store, the flagship retail stop of Walt Disney World, officially reopened recently with a wide-open floor plan, new lines of merchandise and nods to technology and the company's artistic past.
The remodeling, completed in phases over several months, is another part of the dining and shopping complex's long-running reimagining, dating from its Downtown Disney days to its retheming as a small, turn-of-the-century Florida town.
The backstory of the World of Disney structure includes an origin based on a citrus produce market, followed by a stint as an office for animators before becoming a retail space, according to the new Disney lore. Elements of its fictional past are presented throughout the store, including animator-inspired sketches incorporated into check-out counters and artwork that temporarily – and magically, Disney says – springs to life. Its agricultural roots are seen in faded painted signage on walls.
Shoppers may first notice the redesign's open spaces and additional light.
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"We wanted to make this a really great shopping experience, period," said Alysia Kelley, vice president of visual merchandising.
The interior look features natural lighting, brick walls and carpet-free flooring.
"We pared back all the heavy theming and the art so that the architecture could be really great visual cues as to where to walk, how to navigate the store," Kelley said.
Because World of Disney customers tend to move in groups, aisles were made wider, she said.
"It's very important that you can see where you're going, who you're with, where they are in the store," she said. Shoppers should be able to see all the way across the store at any moment, she said. The previous design of the store was more boxy and segmented.
Although the store has expanded over the years, the latest work is the first total re-imagining of the space, Kelley said. A similar renovation has just been completed at the World of Disney store at Downtown Disney in Anaheim, Calif.
The Disney Springs store has hubs for some subjects, such as Star Wars or princesses. And there are flexible areas that will change with needs and trends. Right now, there's a lot of holiday-related merchandise on the western end of the building.
"Some people like to shop by their favorite character or story or franchise. Some people like to shop by category," said Stefanie Whitmore, director of merchandise strategy and product development. "We have a little bit of both in this store."
An entire section is dedicated to headwear, including the famed mouse ears in caps and headband styles, but those products will also be shown in other areas of the store.
With the re-opening of the store comes new merchandise collections, including a retro one based on the Mickey Mouse Club.
"It will be here for a period of time as an exclusive, and then it will eventually roll out to other locations," Whitmore said.
More additions will be arriving at the complex before the end of the year, said Matt Simon, vice president of Disney Springs. Look for the Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill to open in November, followed by restaurant called Jaleo, fronted by Chef Jose Andres, in December, he said.