retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Washington Post has a fascinating story about how Disney theme parks seem intent on pricing middle class consumers out of the possibility of visiting them.

"When Walt Disney World opened in an Orlando swamp in 1971, with its penny arcade and marching-band parade down Main Street U.S.A., admission for an adult cost $3.50, about as much then as three gallons of milk," the story says. But now, times have changed, and "Disney has raised the gate price for the Magic Kingdom 41 times since, nearly doubling it over the past decade. This year, a ticket inside the 'most magical place on Earth' rocketed past $100 for the first time in history."

The story goes on: "rising prices have changed the character of Big Mouse’s family-friendly empire in unavoidably glitzy ways. A visitor to Disney’s central Florida fantasy-land can now dine on a $115 steak, enjoy a $53-per-plate dessert party and sleep in a bungalow overlooking the Seven Seas Lagoon starting at $2,100 a night.

"For America’s middle-income vacationers, the Mickey Mouse club, long promoted as 'made for you and me,' seems increasingly made for someone else. But far from easing back, the theme-park giant’s prices are expected to climb even more through a surge-pricing system that could value a summer’s day of rides and lines at $125."

While Disney officials say the increased prices are a result of rising attendance and their desire to provide a "magical experience" to attendees, the story says that "some see Disney’s magically ascending price tag as a reflection of the country’s economy, where stagnant wages and growing inequality have transformed even the way Americans take time off."

You can read the entire story here.
KC's View:
To me, this is very much worth reading because it suggests to me the possibility that Disney, as it looks to milk every dime it can from its operations, also could be hurting itself in the long run by making itself a more exclusive destination that is not available to middle and lower-middle class consumers. And it is doing so at a time when it continues to spend millions advertising its resorts ... which could manage to ramp up the frustration with the company.

I don't really mean this, but maybe the company has to open a discount-Disney that is smaller, less expensive, higher tech and more accessible to people of lesser means.

I do think that Disney has to be concerned about this, because it is a brand with a lot more at stake than just theme park attendance ... it has a lot of other things it wants to sell people and lot of other venues, physical and virtual, that it wants people to patronize. Tarnishing the brand could create real problems for the company.

It isn't a Disney movie, but this scenario reminds me of the Jurassic Park movies ... since it suggests that just because you can do something does not mean that you should do something. (The Jurassic Park movies, by the way, are Universal productions ... and since that is a company with its own theme parks and other entertainment divisions, the lessons apply.)