Let me preface this by saying that I own a pair of designer sunglasses, Coach to be specific. I’d also like to mention that I have been known to ogle outside high-end stores in Vegas wondering just how I could purchase that exquisite Gucci bag. If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you’d know that shopping is a favorite pastime of mine. One would think that getting a new store at Walt Disney World would be exciting. Well folks, I have found a time in which it’s not. In fact, it has made my blood boil. Why, you ask? A Sunglass Hut is coming to the Magic Kingdom.
Back in October, Island Supply Company, a small shop across from the Swiss Family Treehouse, shut its doors. It was done quickly and quietly with little information as to its future. Rumors began to spread and only recently has it been confirmed by an internal memo that a Sunglass Hut will operate in the location beginning this Thursday, January 8. Let me say that again. A SUNGLASS HUT is going to be sitting smack dab in the middle of Adventureland in the Magic Kingdom!
Sunglass Hut touts itself as the “premier shopping and inspiration destination for the top brands, latest trends and exclusive styles of high quality fashion and performance sunglasses.” I guess when some big whig executive at the Mouse House saw that he had one of those metaphorical light bulb moments and decided that the Magic Kingdom was the ideal venue for high end eyewear sales. Are you kidding me? Now don’t get me wrong; I have absolutely nothing against Sunglass Hut and its products. I’m sure they’re quite lovely. Who wouldn’t enjoy a good pair of Chanel, Ray-Bans, or Oakleys? I’m all for it. However, this store has absolutely no business in the heart of the Magic Kingdom.
When Walt Disney first designed Adventureland, he took special care in selecting everything from the light fixtures and linens to the flooring and background music. Could someone please explain to me how a designer sunglass shop fits in here? Let’s picture this. You have a turkey leg in one hand, a Dole Whip in another, and just spent time voyaging on the Jungle Cruise. As you search for more adventure – perhaps with Captain Jack Sparrow himself – your eyes see this…
Oh, and we can’t forget this…
Seriously? Disney has partnered with Sunglass Hut to open the Island Supply Sunglass Hut – that’s such a clever name too – offering guests hundreds of eyewear options. You might be familiar with a larger store already existing on Disney property, but in a venue that is much more appropriate, Downtown Disney, a shopping mecca that consistently brings in outside chains for guest enjoyment. Similarly, you can also find the “Hut” at a newly-opened spot in Typhoon Lagoon which was formerly Singapore Sal’s. I can cut Disney some slack with these two. They fit their locations. Magic Kingdom seems wrong to me though, and I hate to say it, but I worried that the opening of Starbucks on Main Street USA would pave the way for other chains to enter the gates. Obviously that has come to fruition.
Oh, but let’s remember that Disney will theme the store to fit in with its surroundings. I’ll admit that their doing so of Starbucks was impressive, but there’s only so much you can do with a designer sunglass shop…
Dang, that wood paneling just screams adventure, doesn’t it? I surely would not be able to find something similar at my local mall (note the sarcasm here). This is my biggest issue with Disney’s latest trend of pushing the chains through the turnstiles. As a park guest, I want to escape reality when at the World, not remain in it. I like that feeling of being in a place where dreams come true, elephants fly, and fairies exist. Why would I want to round the corner and see something from the shopping center down the road?
Now, before the comments start rolling in about Walt Disney’s original kingdom, Disneyland, let me state that I 100% recognize that Disney Parks were first built on sponsorship. I know about the Hallmark Shop, the Elgin Clock Shop, and the infamous Hollywood-Maxwell Intimate Apparel Shop. I remember looking at the oval-shaped Kodak, GE, and Delta signs above attractions as a child. I get it. However, putting a sterile, futuristic type of store such as Sunglass Hut in Adventureland crosses a line. They could even stick Mickey Mouse stickers up and down the sunglass frames for all care; it still does not fit.
As someone who usually keeps a positive stance when it comes to the parks, I’m putting Disney on notice. Be careful. Park guests don’t want their vacations to be saturated with the commercial world. Design your own stores. Create new attractions. Refresh old favorites. Whatever you do, stop cheapening the parks with moves like this one. Otherwise, you’ll soon see more unhappy guests, something competitors are banking on so they can swoop in and collect their dollars.
Sunglass Hut Media