A visit to Walt Disney World in Florida tells you a number of things about the future of retailing, even if it’s in a turbocharged way because the parks have unbelievable footfall, most of whom arrive prepared to spend money.
Cast members, as Disney refers to its staff, are plentiful and generally friendly. The warmest greetings were always from the people you saw as you left the parks. As most things in the complex are carefully thought through I think this is deliberate, so you take away a positive memory.
We had paid for a four-day family visit and were equipped with wristbands at the start that were personalised with our names printed on them.
The payment system worked efficiently and when I left I was sent an itemised bill of extras that were charged to my account. I can see many retailers wanting to set up a system like this for their stores
At the front desk I handed over my credit card and via a four numeral code equipped everyone in my family with the ability to buy what they liked using the chip in the wristband. (At that point I had no idea how many shops and foodservice outlets we would pass by.)
Also at this stage we were advised to download the Disney app to my mobile phone to plan what attractions we could visit with a Fast Pass, up to three a day. And to plan where we would eat on our dining plan. The choice was bewildering and the app was difficult to use at first. We got help from a cast member who assured us that plenty of parents handed their smartphones to their children to work through.
However, the point is that two days in and we were happily living in a totally cashless environment, planning what to do next through an app, and not needing to ask anyone for help (much). The payment system worked efficiently and when I left I was sent an itemised bill of extras that were charged to my account. I can see many retailers wanting to set up a system like this for their stores.
In all the theme parks every building housed an air-conditioned selling space. The assortment of merchandise available must be upward of 100,000 lines.
In our hotel shop there was a 500sq ft convenience department and the manager was doing a visual stock take using a pen and paper. He told me this was just a fast replenishment as they were sent pick lists to work from because the assortment was constantly being changed (perhaps not in the convenience section, which was tightly ranged to top seller and distress items like pain killers).
How many different types of Mickey Mouse hats can you have? I could not guess. There are hundreds. Visit Epcot and the British village and the shops are full of Arsenal merchandise (and other top clubs), Beatles tops, heraldry and tartan.
The buyer had done a really good job at putting together a quality range. And another had done similarly well in the Moroccan village, and the Italian and so on.
While Disney World nearly failed in the 1980s, today it appears to be a total success and it invests in that success. The environment is kept clean and in good condition. There are no broken light fixtures. The borders are replanted by an army of gardeners.
New experiences are introduced regularly. We went on a new one called Soarin’, which was magical, and everyone who left the ride was filled with wonder and happily discussing the trip around the world we had just taken.
This is a business that believes in the value it delivers and I am sure most customers will find it hard to disagree. Do you aim for the same?