Is Disney Springs in Trouble?

Originally reported by Theme Park Tourist…

Ever since it was first announced back in 2013, Disney Springs has proven to be a controversial subject among Disney fans. Many still long for the days when Downtown Disney was a simpler concept, and feel like the new direction for this shopping, dining and entertainment district marks an unfortunate shift away from the uniquely “Disney” feel of its predecessor.

Fast-forward to fall 2016, and those who have been critical of the Disney Springs project have been keeping a close eye on a number of troubling developments at this shopping district in recent days, citing things like the recent reduction of hours at Amorette’s Patisserie and the newly-confirmed seasonal closure of AristoCrepes as anecdotal proof that Disney Springs is already a failure, despite only being technically open for just a few months. But is there any real validity to these claims? Let’s take a look at what is REALLY going on right now at this shopping district…

1. The Town Center district has a lot to prove, but it is just getting started

The Town Center area of Disney Springs has probably proven to be the most controversial aspect of Disney Springs, as many have likened this area of the shopping district to a standard outlet mall, with shops like Sephora, Anthropologie, Under Armor, Everything But Water, etc., making up the bulk of the district’s lineup. However, despite whatever misgivings guests might have about the retailer lineup, the fact is that the Town Center area of the shopping area is so new, that it simply hasn’t had a chance to succeed or fail just yet.

While the hours change at Amorette’s Patisserie in this district may indicate that this particular establishment (which is owned by Disney) might be underperforming right now, the fact is that this area of Disney Springs is still too new to make any wide-sweeping judgments here, especially as we’re coming up on the inaugural holiday shopping season for this district, which will be the first true test of the viability of the Town Center. If holiday shoppers show up in droves in November and December, you can bet the Town Center will continue to grow and attract new retailers. However, if this area of Disney Springs struggles during the holidays, then it may be time to start talking about potential issues with this area.

2. Even more construction is due in the near future that will allow Disney Springs to handle BIGGER crowds.

While the bulk of the reinvention of Disney Springs involved the construction of the aforementioned Town Center District, there are even more changes on the horizon for this shopping district. In the short term, more stores and restaurants are expected to open in the next few months (including the highly-anticipated Polite Pig restaurant), but thinking beyond 2016 and 2017, Disney has also green lit a new project that will bring a third parking garage, more transportation changes, and additional routes into Disney Springs by 2019. While it’s impossible for anyone (even Disney) to see the future, initial returns must be pretty good for Disney to green light this further expansion, which is definitely a positive sign.

3. The Marketplace might be struggling, but its troubles are probably only temporary

Image: Disney 

Though we wouldn’t worry too much about the reduced hours at Amorette’s Patisserie and the seasonal closure of Aristocrepes, there is one development that does seem to indicate trouble for a segment of Disney Springs, although it probably isn’t what you think.

Earlier this year, Disney offered a special summertime deal that allowed Magic Kingdom diners to grab a 10% off coupon for Marketplace merchandise locations including One Upon a Toy, the Marketplace Co-Op and of course the ubiquitous World of Disney. And while this seemed like a good move at the time, intended to push shoppers towards already-popular shops at Disney Springs, presumably with the intent of getting guests to explore what’s new at the shopping district at the same time, recently this coupon deal has been extended and expanded.

Now instead of simply handing out coupons to Magic Kingdom quick service diners, guests who dine at virtually any quick service location around Walt Disney World are now being given this coupon, which is valid until the day before the Thanksgiving holiday (and the unofficial start to the Christmas season), November 23. And while this could be an attempt to build on the success of the first offer, insiders suggest that retailers in the Marketplace District haven’t been meeting sales goals in recent months, which is also the reason behind Disney’s haste in putting a princess meet and greet inside World of Disney (which actually requires guests to browse around this shop before meeting the day’s princess).

However, though this seems like a desperate move to get guests into these stores, things aren’t as bad as they seem. In fact there is a perfectly logical explanation behind the downturn in guest money spent at Disney Springs (and the Marketplace, specifically): the attendance collapse of summer 2016. Though we know that guest levels have begun to rise again at Walt Disney World as of fall 2016, just a few months earlier the resort suffered a big attendance slide, which in turn led to less foot traffic at Disney Springs. And while some guests were drawn to the newness of the Town Center district, the Marketplace couldn’t really keep up in the same way, as it has remained remarkably unchanged during the Disney Springs transformation. And while this sounds like a dire situation, once guest levels even out again, this area of Disney Springs should recover as well.

 Image: Disney

The transformation of Downtown Disney has not been popular with everyone, but it is a bit too soon to call the entire project a failure, and what negative developments we have seen have been isolated and do not seem to be cause for legitimate concern. Have you been to Disney Springs recently? What do you think is going on with this shopping district? Let us know in the comments below!


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Don Korta
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