Should Disney special-event merchandise only be sold at the event?

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For many, if not most, travelers, a fun part of the vacation experience is bringing home a souvenir or two. We love to have something tangible to remind us of our time spent exploring new places. And there’s no doubt that Disney merchandise is some of the most popular — for personal use and for collectors. From the seemingly unlimited supply of Mickey Mouse plush and T-shirts to the high-end Dooney & Bourke bags and Pandora jewelry, Disney Parks (and other Disney properties) offer something for just about everyone.

Special Disney events, such as the Halloween and Christmas parties and park anniversaries, usually mean a new line of commemorative products will be offered for a limited time at the place where the special event is taking place. There is some degree of exclusivity because these items can only be purchased at the events they represent. (Secondary-market sellers are another story.)

Last summer, my family and I made our first trip to Disneyland during the 60th anniversary celebration of the resort, which continues through Sept. 5. Of course, we purchased merchandise from the Disneyland Diamond collection, knowing it was special and something we could only get there. In fact, some of the Diamond products were so popular that they remained out of stock when we visited — nearly three months after the celebration started.

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So, imagine our surprise — and disappointment — this past weekend when my daughter spotted her Diamond edition mouse-ear headband for sale at the Magic Kingdom here in Orlando. It wasn’t labeled as Disneyland 60th anniversary merchandise, rather it was mixed in with other Disney Parks mouse-ear hats and headbands. This certainly was possible because this particular item doesn’t have any wording indicating it was made for the Diamond celebration. Still, it clearly was designed with the anniversary in mind — the bow is blue (the color of the themed merchandise) and bedazzled with fake jewels (diamonds).

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Seeing her carefully chosen souvenir from a special event so readily available at another location felt like a betrayal of sorts. There is a reasonable expectation by people attending special events that the exclusive merchandise will not be sold elsewhere by Disney — and certainly not just passed off as regular park merchandise. What makes the exclusive merchandise special is not just the limited quantities of products, but the fact that you experienced the event. To me, it’s kind of like going to your city’s arena for a professional basketball game and being able to buy T-shirts for any of the concert tours that have stopped there in the last year. It doesn’t make sense to make the merchandise available to people who don’t attend the special event, and it takes away something from the people who do.

And, frankly, diluting the exclusivity doesn’t necessarily benefit Disney, either. Sure, the company has the potential to sell more of a certain item because more units are available at more locations, but it might not be in as much demand because buyers know it’s not an “exclusive.”

Do you agree or disagree? Is “exclusive” merchandise more desirable to you? Would you be less likely to buy the merchandise if it were available elsewhere? Tell us in the comments, please.


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15 Replies to “Should Disney special-event merchandise only be sold at the event?”

  1. I too went to the 60th Anniversary celebration in Disneyland. It was my first trip there and I was excited to buy what I thought were exclusive Disneyland 60th Anniversary merchandise. If I knew I could get it all online it would have saved me a lot of room in my luggage. The thrill of the hunt for souvenirs certainly has changed with the internet!

  2. While I agree that limited edition stock should be reserved for EACH date of an event, I totally disagree that they shouldn’t sell already-manufactured items online after an event is over, for two reasons.

    #1. Souvenirs (especially those sold for special events) are intended to be a physical reminder of the memories you have of that visit. The fact that some guy who may not have attended the event can have the same thing I bought does not diminish my memory of attending the event; people buy things to take home for gifts all the time, after all, and you really don’t even have any idea whether the people buying things outside of the event actually attended or not. Imagine you decided not to buy something at the event but then later had regret… wouldn’t it be delightful to be browsing the selection online, or at an outlet and find that you have a second chance at it?

    #2. (and really, the more salient point, because it has nothing to do with my opinion) If Disney were to take that route then they would most definitely make FAR less of every single limited/special item (and probably a much smaller selection of them as well) and as we all know, when supply dwindles and demand goes up so do the prices and the disappointment increases. That also encourages the secondary market for these items.

    If you require true exclusivity then you should stick to things that are both event-branded AND limited edition. Another option would be to focus on photos… photos of your family/group are the ONLY truly unique item you’re likely to find!

  3. I think it would be nice to be able to get special merchandise online because even though we go every year to Disney we can’t afford to go more than once. Sometimes there is merchandise we would like to have but can’t because you can only get them at special events. So often there are items I would like to purchase but can’t because you have to be at a special event to buy it.

  4. I confess to always being surprised that at the Disney store online one can often buy shirts celebrating the many marathons. Even if one wasn’t present to watch or participate in one.

  5. I was disappointed to see the Merry Christmas Party pins for sale at Frontierland last week. Granted the one I bought in December was not among the “leftovers” but it was still disheartening to see that anyone could now buy it. And one design was supposedly sold out during my party. The 2015 Pandora bead is not only still for sale well into 2016 but the online Disney store is selling at a discount! I feel sort of like an idiot to see that 4 days after I paid full price in the park for my 2016. I could have waited until next spring and bought it cheaper. Not to mention they told me the flower show pin I picked was selling out, so I bought it my first day and later in the week, not only was it well stocked, but the supposedly sold out Mickey version was on the racks with it. So there was no need to rush to by the one and I might have rather had the Mickey but was not going to buy two for the same event.

    I too miss the days of special items in each shop. I really see no reason to go in most shops as they all have the same stuff. Epcot when I was a kid had country authentic items in WS now it is mostly Disney princess stuff made in China.

    They need to keep things exclusive and they need to stop the homogeny in their stores. I understand not wanting to have to travel back to AK for that certain Simba your child can’t forget and can’t find anywhere else, but is there anything really special about the Simba you can buy in any park, online and your local mall? Each park should have some items you can only buy there.

  6. I do agree that items for “exclusive” events should be limited to that event. That is one of the reasons people pay extra for some events.

    Even Amazon.com has Disneyland 60th merchandise for sale.

  7. Along the same lines, I truly miss the “exclusive” WDW labeled items. Mostly everything seems to be labeled “Disney Parks” now.

  8. I’m of a different view. If you purchase something that isn’t labeled as for that specific event, you can’t expect Disney to refrain from selling the item elsewhere. Items labeled “Disneyland” without dual Disney World labeling should not be sold at Disney World. It’s buyer beware and you are responsible for ensuring you are purchasing items labeled and therefore limited to sale as an exclusive.

    As far as pins go, there should absolutely be an inventory withheld for the day of the holiday, or a slightly different pin for attending ON the day it occurs.

  9. This is further evidence of the general dilution of the Disney brand. There used to be great value in the relative exclusivity of certain Disney merchandise. In the 1990’s, you could look forward to finding something unique in almost every shop. Now the merchandise is pretty much the same in every shop and once you have visited a few, there is not much reason to visit any more.

    This trend was extended further with the introduction of the “Disney Parks” brand. When we first took our kids to WDW in the 90’s we even collected cups and napkins with the WDW logo. Today, all the parks use the same paper goods, shopping bags, etc. And merchandise carries the “Disney Parks” badging instead of anything unique to WDW.

    All of this is tied directly to the sense of urgency Disney feels to maximize return to its shareholders (i.e., profits). Increasing the TAM (total available market) for merchandise increases the revenue generated by that merchandise, while at the same time the volume of merchandise manufactured reduces unit cost. Together, profit is maximized.

    Unfortunately, Walt’s vision of the importance of the guest experience has been largely discarded. Every time I am herded through the backstage area toward the Magic Kingdom exit after Wishes, I feel Walt turning over in his grave.

    I feel blessed to have experienced WDW in the 70’s and it is still better than its competition. But the gap shrinks each year.

  10. Hi. I agree that special event merchandise should be available only at the parks during the special events. You might be surprised to know that our local Character Warehouse (Disney outlet) in Sunrise, Florida, had many diamond celebration items with the event tags at discounted prices. I love Disney stores because it’s a piece of the magic when I can’t be at the parks, but special event things should only be available at the parks. One of my favorite things this summer was visiting the Disney store in Times Square and purchasing items that are special to that store and city and I would be disappointed if I saw those souvenirs elsewhere.

  11. That is sad. I have those same ears. We are heading to WDW next week and I was excited to wear something you could not find there, but now I guess you can. Hope they don’t also have my special 60th sweatshirt I got.

  12. I felt the same way when Disney announced they’d be selling Cruise Line merchandise at Disney Springs. Part of the fun of going on a cruise is shopping through all the cool merchandise you don’t see anywhere else! It takes some of that special feeling away.

  13. I have been going to Disney since 1973. One of the best things from then was you could only find Disney merchandise at the Parks. I know that isn’t going to happen again, but having exclusivity to some Disney merchandise from the Parks would make me more likely to purchase it. I also agree that if there is special merchandise from Disneyland, you shouldn’t be able to purchase it at Disney World and vise versa.

  14. I’m with you on this one…I get more disappointed every year we go back. I miss the days when you could find that special piece of Disney at the parks to bring home. Now you can find it almost anywhere on Disney property. Disney Village (Springs) still to me is my favorite place to shop and walk around….all the new non-Disney stores are gonna take some time for me to warm up too.

  15. Yes, I agree, though the exclusivity of the ears is that at Disneyland they have the 60th anniversary wording decorations & it looks like the ones there at Orlado do not, so they are different. But, yes, I do think that exclusive should be exclusive to the park and/or the event.

    On another note that might be similar, about the special event and holiday pins.
    It has driven me crazy to go to the parks, especially on holidays (Christmas, Halloween, etc. to find that the pins were released weeks before the holiday and are sold out. I hate that !!! I feel that holiday pins should be available ON that holiday.

    KRISTIN: Thanks, Leon. My daughter’s mouse-ear headband from #Disneyland60 is exactly the same — down to the tag — as what is being sold at Magic Kingdom now. She was wearing it that day and we compared!