In an effort to strengthen its retail business, Walt Disney Co. has consolidated sales of toys, books, apparel, DVDs and video games under a single division to be headed by Robert Chapek, the newly named president of consumer products.
The former distribution chief for Walt Disney Studios will oversee an expanded consumer products group that will handle retail and licensing across the entertainment giant's businesses, from its film units — Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Entertainment and Disney — to the interactive media and television groups.
"The whole idea is to create more power with the retailers," said media analyst David Miller, managing director of Caris & Co.
Major retailers have been shrinking the shelf space devoted to DVDs and Blu-ray discs as they follow consumers to the Internet. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which has made faltering attempts to sell music and movies online, is having recent success with its Vudu streaming service.
By combining various parts of its operations, Miller said, Disney is hoping to improve its retail sales and become "a one-stop shop for the Wal-Marts and all the big-box retailers looking for a place to go with all kinds of toys and consumer products."
Disney declined to comment on its consumer products strategy.
A Disney veteran, Chapek joined the company in 1993 and has been an internal advocate for new technologies and emerging forms of distribution.
During his tenure as president of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, he was an early supporter of Blu-ray discs — which many in Hollywood hoped would prop up home entertainment sales as DVD purchases began to wane — and of 3-D technology for the home.
Chapek was promoted in November 2009 to president of distribution for the studio. In that capacity, he embraced a Disney initiative known as KeyChest, which enables the consumer to pay once for a movie and be able to access it on computers and portable devices. He also worked on such digital distribution initiatives as Disney Movies Online, which lets consumers buy or rent digital versions of Disney and Pixar films.
In his new role, Chapek will oversee the world's largest licensing operation, Disney Publishing Worldwide and the Disney Stores retail chain in North America, Europe and Japan. He also will be responsible for growing new businesses, like Disney's English-language learning centers in Shanghai and Beijing.