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Did stock problems with Frozen toys affect Disney’s ratings?

Frozen poster, Disney

Each year we ask customers to help us find the UK’s best and worst shops. One of the more surprising results this time was Disney Store falling from 2nd to 43rd in one year. Could the ‘Frozen effect’ be to blame?

We found that Lush was the best shop in our survey, closely followed by John Lewis, while mobile provider EE was bottom.

The Disney Store is still a solid ‘mid-table’ retailer, but it’s no longer the top-scoring store in our baby and child category. And losing that much ground in a year is quite unusual.

Are poor stock levels to blame for Disney’s fall in our survey?

It made me wonder where things had gone wrong for Disney. Opinion seemed divided among shoppers we heard from. Some praised ‘helpful’ staff and ‘quality’ products, but others bemoaned ‘expensive’ prices and ‘poor stock levels’. One customer told us: ‘Popular toys sell out and aren’t restocked quickly enough.’

That point about stock, in particular, resonated with me and indeed, reflected comments from several other parents, aunts and uncles I’ve spoken to over the past year or so. Since the film Frozen came out just before Christmas 2013, basically.

Frozen phenomenon

To say Frozen has been a phenomenon would be selling it short. It’s the highest-grossing animated film of all time, in the top-10 grossing movies ever and the only Disney animation to have broken the $1billion mark at the box office. Commercially, it doesn’t come much bigger.

A new phrase, the ‘Frozen effect’ has even been coined for its apparent effect on everything from what names parents give their children to where people go on holiday.

Kids love it. My five-year old watched it on loop on a flight last year, and happily watches it again and again on DVD.

Unfortunately, Disney seemed to misjudge demand for Frozen merchandise. There was a time when ‘the’ Elsa dress from Frozen was changing hands for obscene amounts of money on eBay, because you couldn’t buy one for love nor money from a Disney Store.

Sometimes, companies deliberately withhold stock to create this kind of frenzy, but I don’t think that was the case here. Something seemed to have gone awry in the planning department, leaving children disappointed and anyone looking to buy Frozen gifts for them hugely frustrated. In my experience, it was easier to find stock in other toy shops than it was at a Disney Store.

Stock problems

Low stock is one of my biggest bugbears when shopping for anything. In the early 2000s, stock levels had become a big issue for Sainsbury’s, so then CEO Justin King made boosting stock availability and sorting out the supply chain a cornerstone of his strategy for turning around the supermarket’s fortunes. It sounds obvious – customers can’t buy products that you don’t have on the shelves– but it’s tough to get right.

One thing’s for sure, though. If retailers get it wrong this kind of thing sticks in shoppers’ minds for some time. And I suspect we’ve seen a bit of the ‘Frozen effect’ in the Disney Store’s drop in our survey this year.

What drives you mad when you’re out shopping? Stock problems, poor customer service, price or range and quality of products? What do you think makes for a great store?


Interesting comment about low stock. When I read the first line of that paragraph, I immediately thought of Sainsbury’s and then wasn’t surprised to see it named on the next line. Although this has massively improved as you suggest, I still find this varies from branch to branch. Some branches, even old small ones in need of refurbishment, are very well stocked, yet some very modern huge branches are often out of stock. There’s still room for improvement.

I’m sure many parents (and their bank managers) would regard a complete absence of Frozen products to be a major advantage in any shop, including Disney ones.