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DAN TURNER

Staff Reporter

Ten years ago, the world's very first Disney Store was launched at the Glendale Galleria.

Last week, Walt Disney Co. executives revealed that the entertainment giant's newest retail merchandising concept will be born at the same mall.

During a lengthy shareholder meeting Feb. 25, Disney consumer products President Barton Boyd made a surprise announcement: The company plans to leverage its ownership of the ESPN cable TV sports network by creating a chain of ESPN-themed retail stores.

The first incarnation of the concept will appear this fall at the Glendale Galleria. The 4,000-square-foot store will feature sports merchandise with the logos of various professional and college teams, sports memorabilia, and a number of items branded with the ESPN logo.

It will also borrow a page from the successful Disney Store by merging retail with entertainment, with a themed environment inside the store to create the illusion that customers are entering an ESPN broadcast center. It will contain video monitors showing athletic contests and interactive kiosks where shoppers can play video games or call up sports information.

ESPN has proven to be one of the most valuable pieces of Capital Cities/ABC Inc., which Disney acquired last year. Disney does not disclose the division's financial results, but every recent quarterly report released by Disney has cited high earnings at ESPN as a prime reason for the company's overall growth.

After an aggressive expansion strategy, ESPN now reaches 212 million households around the world, making it one of the world's biggest cable networks.

"There will be an identity to the store from the get-go because of the ESPN name," said Richard Giss, a partner in the trade retail services group at Deloitte & Touche LLP. "You'll know what the store is about right away, and that's important."

Sports apparel is hot right now, as is entertainment retailing, and Disney is poised to take advantage of both trends, Giss said.

The Glendale store will be located near the food court on the mall's first floor, a spot mall General Manager Cindy Chong calls a prime location.

The Disney Store at Glendale Galleria has the highest sales volume of any specialty store in the mall, Chong said. Since the store opened in 1987, Disney has opened 565 like it around the world.

Chong said she expects the ESPN store to attract a lot of interest from shoppers when it opens, which will in turn draw traffic to other stores in the mall.

"First, people will be interested because it's the first store they've done, and second, people are very familiar with both Disney and ESPN," Chong said. "We're very excited about it."

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