retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Michael Sansolo had a piece yesterday about Disney’s line management issues in its theme parks, which led MNB user Chelle Blaszczyk to write:

Loved Michael's piece on Disney World as we were just there last week for the first time. Since it was chilly and January, we had 3 days of very little crowds which was wonderful. And= then Saturday was warmer (and being a 3 day weekend), it was busier; so we got to experience both ways. I was totally impressed with the details that Disney put into making sure that the guest has a fabulous time. From the lining up for the tram to the waiting in line for the Winnie the Pooh ride, they have it figured out how to manage crowds. And, then on slow days to make people not feel like they are lost in never ending lines that have no people in them. They shut off parts of the queuing so that you don't see it; wow, not only are they concerned to make sure the crowds are comfortable but also that when there aren’t crowds, guests are handled wonderfully also.

Yes, every business could learn something from Disney; talk about using every opportunity to make it the happiest place in the world. They know how to do it right!!!

MNB user John Rand wrote:

Like many, my family has been to Disney a number of times, every few years almost since the park in Orlando opened.  I remember thinking a few years ago about how clever they were getting in using in-park communications and such to reduce line time. Clearly that continues to evolve.

But there are also customer strategies – there are whole books devoted to helping park visitors plan their days in the park to avoid traffic – identifying “hot spots” and times when certain areas of the park are more or less patronized.

And herein is a lesson – because as difficult as it is to manage and smooth out the customer experience in busy times, there are a lot of shoppers who have learned their own strategies to avoid crowds and lines. In retail, that means shopping at odd hours, mid week, evenings, etc.

And I have seen a lot of retail fall apart when the pressure is off. Service employees who ignore shoppers. So few registers open that they actually create an artificial and unnecessary line. Taking self-check- out stands out of service (why, for gosh sakes?).  Unmanned departments. Out of stocks. (Try buying store made bakery products on a Wednesday evening.)
There are highs and lows in shopping traffic and patterns of behavior one can use to minimize overhead, labor, and to maximize consumer experience.

But if you drop the experience down far enough, you might as well close the darn doors. You are putting yourself out of business.

Another MNB user wrote:

I'm gonna go out on a limb and ask what may be an obvious question... Why hasn't Disney kicked their app development up for smart phones?  Most smart phones have built-in GPS and are carried just about everywhere.  For a small fee Disney could "empower" a smart phone app that assigns priority "seating" on rides that are proximate to the phone.  Folks would then be completely unchained from lines to wander the entire park (and spend) to their heart's content.  They could board rides closest to them based upon a mix of priority and availability.  "We are #3 for the Tea Cup and #18 for Space Mountain; what'll it be kids?"  GPS tracking could easily keep the app synched with direction of travel and location to alert the individual rides and texting to the user could confirm that it's time to "all aboard!"...

MNB user Philip Herr wrote:

In my opinion, Disney created the problem when abandoning the market system. Way back, you used to be issued with a set of tickets at entry to the park. Each had a different value from A to E, with the E ticket gaining entry to the premium rides. Kiosks would sell additional tickets. So effectively, the market would determine the length of the line. Pay more for E tickets and get on the best rides. But once the ticket system was abandoned and (dare I say) a “socialistic” approach of equality across all rides was implemented, the lines increased at the most exciting attractions. I know you can “bribe” your way to the front of a line by paying a premium, but this seems far less fair than an open bidding system. I’d suggest Disney return to the system with a loaded value card – assigning a set number of points on arrival which get used up (or recharged) as the day progresses. And perhaps they can experiment with load pricing – changing the number of points needed at different times of the day?

On the subject of Walmart’s healthy initiative and the front-of-packaging labeling program developed by food retailers and manufacturers, much of it in tune - to varying degrees - with priorities put out there by First Lady Michelle Obama, one MNB user wrote:

Has anyone questioned Mrs. Obama's self-acclaimed credentials as a nutrition expert?

I think that this is unfair. She hasn’t presented herself as a nutrition expert - just a concerned mom with access to experts who is using her soapbox for positive purposes.

In my view, this is a good thing.

MNB user Tom Cobb had a thought about the lawsuit charging that the beef served at Taco Bell is more filler than meat:

Maybe their new slogan should be "Think outside the cow.”

KC's View: