Over the past few weeks, there has been a noticeable change in merchandising at Disney Parks and retail locations relating to pricing and the availability of items. There are numerous rumors making their way around the internet, ranging from a desire to clamp down on resellers to a new push for profits from TWDC management.
So, what’s happened to the merchandise? The answer is simple - the furloughing of many Disney cast members (including merchandising) who design and approve new products, combined with shutdown of the parks and plans to close Disney retail locations in North America has left the warehouses a little emptier than normal.
Merchandisers at the Walt Disney Company begin their work well in advance of the final product hitting the shelves in a retail location. This involves the design of a product, creation and approval of their specifications, then prototype build and review (making changes if required) and final approval before an item goes into production. Just the creation of a pin involves numerous people across the merchandising team just to get it ready for production. Furloughs last year of Disney employees and workforce reductions to control expenditures during the height of the pandemic (thus far), combined with reduced production staffing at manufacturing plants, resource availability to produce goods, and shipping and logistical issues resulting from closed ports and air traffic definitely impacted their ability to obtain new product inventory: Throughout the pandemic, Disney has been selling off what they had in stock, hence the large selection of Splash Mountain merchandise when its pending closure was announced and other similar products being rolled out quickly, followed by a new merchandise slowdown.
In addition to the challenges of creating new products to add to their inventory, issues relating to park capacity, retail store opening policies, and other public health measures that reduced, if not eliminated market opportunities to sell these products impacted what was produced and the quantities made; make too much and there may not be a market for it. That also doesn’t factor how much merchandise was sitting in closed retail locations that was ultimately liquidated when the stores closed and making inventory availability even less than normal.
For those who still can, go into one of the few retail locations left that will remain open (for Canadians, that’s the Scarborough Town Centre, Eaton Centre, and Vaughan Mills). Cast members have no idea what’s coming in, when it will arrive, or what the future holds for merchandise in their stores. Disney simply isn’t going to overspend on merchandise for it not to sell or be profitable if it does.
What happens next?
Expect (at least in the short- term) a lower merchandise availability than normal for outlet stores and lower production numbers of new items as they re-start the merchandising cycle. In the meantime does that impact the ability of a reseller to purchase large quantities for excessively priced resale…yes. That definitely wasn’t the end goal though. That does explain why there are limits on the number of items a guest can purchase and goes a long way in helping to explain why Disney felt it was necessary to raise prices at the Character Warehouse to slow down resellers and guests seeking to purchase items in large quantities.
This will pass at some point over the next year. As the merchandising team goes back to full compliment (and therefore production) and as manufacturing and logistical operations ramp up once again, the availability of items will only increase and that will allow this temporary situation to solve on its own.