SHANGHAI — Walt Disney Company said Thursday it planned to open its first store in mainland China by the middle of next year as it moves to further expand its presence in the fast-growing market.
The US entertainment giant said its strategy would be to secure locations in upscale shopping centres and department stores, where it will open Disney Stores similar to those in Europe and North America.
"The kids? branded retail market in China is growing and we are uniquely positioned to provide a family shopping environment," Stanley Cheung, Disney's Greater China executive vice president and managing director, said in a statement.
"Our Disney Stores aim to deliver the best 30 minutes of a child's day," he added.
The company did not say how many stores it aimed to open in China.
Outside China, Disney said it was on track to add more than 25 new and remodelled stores this year and ultimately planned to refresh its more than 350 locations worldwide.
Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng said in his annual report earlier this month that the city would push to start work this year on a Disney Park that is reportedly scheduled to open in 2014.
However, Disney has said although its discussions with the Shanghai government were advancing, China's central government has yet to approve the joint venture companies and regulatory requirements for the project.
The Shanghai government announced in 2009 that Beijing had approved the park itself, which reportedly will cost $3.6 billion and occupy a 10-square-kilometre (four-square-mile) area.
The Shanghai Disneyland would be the US entertainment giant's third theme park in Asia, after those in Tokyo and Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Disneyland has had a bumpy ride since opening its gates in 2005, with local lawmakers saying low attendance has not justified the huge public investment.
The mainland is the main source of visitors for the Hong Kong park, last year accounting for 2.2 million visitors, or 42 percent of the total, according to the latest park figures.