Netflix Sets Up Shop In Department Store Carcasses

Netflix House knows no chill
Netflix to Open Massive Entertainment, Dining and Shopping Complexes in Two Cities in 2025
Netflix has announced the first two cities for its gigantic new in-person experience venues, slated to open in 2025.

I had missed this news from last October, but apparently, Netflix is now really getting into the physical retail game. Well, kind of:

At least initially, Netflix doesn’t see these permanent retail destinations as becoming a sizable new business segment. Rather, the goal — as with its other IRL events and pop-ups — is for them to serve as marketing vehicles that invite fan engagement, as a way to support the core subscription-streaming biz.

“At Netflix House, you can enjoy regularly updated immersive experiences, indulge in retail therapy, and get a taste — literally — of your favorite Netflix series and films through unique food and drink offerings,” Marian Lee, Netflix’s chief marketing officer, said in a statement. “We’ve launched more than 50 experiences in 25 cities, and Netflix House represents the next generation of our distinctive offerings. The venues will bring our beloved stories to life in new, ever-changing and unexpected ways.”

So, no, they're not selling DVDs – though I'm guessing they might given the right marketing gimmick potential! But they are selling "experiences", something which they've been doing on an ad-hoc basis for a while now. Essentially, they're interactive marketing. But if you squint, you can almost see a newfangled version and vision of Disneyland. This will be blasphemy to some – perhaps most – but what would Disneyland look like if it was created in 2025 and not 1955? Perhaps something like Netflix House!

And these aren't Apple Stores, the other place your mind might immediately travel to as the current crown jewel of retail created by a tech company. They're massive:

The two locations will occupy former department store locations at the King of Prussia Mall (at 180 North Gulph Road) and at the Galleria Dallas (13350 Dallas Parkway), each spanning footprints of more than 100,000 square feet.

Most Apple Stores are closer to 10,000 square feet. Most stores in general are. So why and how is Netflix going so large? They helpfully answer that:

Speaking of distinctiveness, Netflix selected the locations because they are part of two of the most popular shopping centers in America, boasting hundreds of retailers, high foot traffic, and proximity to major cities. Both Netflix Houses will occupy former department store locations and span footprints of more than 100,000 square feet. Outside these expansive spaces, fans will be treated to some eye-popping sculptures and a mural mash-up of characters from their favorite Netflix titles. 

Former department stores! That's rather brilliant because such space can probably be gotten at relatively attractive prices given the collapse of that industry – a space which also happened to peak around the time Disneyland came into being. Once the anchor tenants of America's massive malls, these days, department stores are more like dead weight due to their size in a world where if you want to buy everything in one place, there's an Amazon for that. Netflix House is one of the few things that can perhaps utilize all that space – well that and warehousing, but that's even worse than dead weight, at least visually and as an anchor client with summoning power for these malls.

My only real gripe is the name. "Netflix House" is both too generic and sounds like it should be, you know, a house. It sounds like something you can rent on Airbnb in their own experiential marketing business. (Do I smell cross-over?) Wouldn't "Netflix World" make more sense? And yes, invoke not only Disney World but also the newer Super Nintendo World theme parks. And "world" is just far more encompassing of a noun, and would better convey the scale Netflix is clearly going for here? Anyway, that's all obvious so there obviously must be some reason they didn't go with it. "Netflixland" could have been fun too – invoking both the aforementioned Disneyland and perhaps Hollywoodland, for those in the industry.

'Netflix House' sounds like some place you go to Netflix and chill, if you know what I mean. Then again, this is the company that gave us "Qwikster" once upon a time.

It is interesting that they're opening two of these and not just one as an experiment. Perhaps they can become a part of what's next for Netflix.