There’s plenty to love about shopping at Epcot’s World Showcase. I can’t get enough of the cheery Japanese candy, friendly German Christmas ornaments, or cheeky British tee shirts. And then there are the World Showcase merchandise items that leave me scratching my head. These are the things that leave me thinking, “Who approved that addition to the merchandise list?” “What is the demographic profile of the typical buyer?” and “Has anyone actually ever purchased this item at Epcot before?”
So that you can be as perplexed as I am, here’s a tour of just a few of Epcot’s oddities.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with vanilla extract. I have several bottles in my pantry standing ready to be called into service for holiday baking. But who goes to a theme park and decides that’s what they’re going to bring home?
My Mexico runner up is the classic giant sombrero. I love these and have posed for many a photo with them. The kitsch value cannot be underestimated. However, these are actual items for sale. I’ve heard that people buy them, but I can’t for the life of me figure out why.
Most of the Norway merchandise makes sense to me. I’ve even been know to buy a jar of lingonberry jam or two when I knew that I wouldn’t be getting to Ikea for a while to replenish my stock. (Swedish Ikea and Epcot Norway being the primary purveyors of all things lingonberry.) The one item that most puzzles me is deodorant in Norway’s signature Laila scent. Perfume = fine. Deodorant = extra fine. Combining the two and selling it for $22 = hmmmmmm?
At first glance, China seems like it might be a full scale vendor of unusual items, but most of the merchandise there is either on point (silk robes) or innocuously inexpensive (plastic toys). The category that most gives me pause is the huge selection of statuary, some of which is strangely large, some which is strangely expensive, and some of which is vaguely offensive.
I do happen to enjoy the pet clothing sold in the China pavilion. If you’ve even had the yen to dress your dog as a panda for Halloween (or any other occasion), then you can find what you need here. On a meta level, the I HEART DOG socks for dogs do not disappoint. Who is loving “DOG”? The dog? The owner? If it’s the owner, then why is the dog wearing the socks? Is the proclamation of love for all dogs, or one in particular? So many questions.
Not surprisingly, the Germany pavilion is replete with drinking paraphernalia. The shelves are filled with an astonishing assortment of wines and steins. So while the stein below makes perfect thematic sense, it’s a bit confusing from a brand perspective. One usually sees Mickey’s smiling mug adorning juice boxes, not vessels designed to hold Meister Bräu. I’m not sure Disney really thought this one through.
I’m giving Italy a pass. The Italians appear to be too classy to sell embarrassing merchandise. The Italy pavilion is the land of Prada perfume and Fendi bags. While a theme park wouldn’t be the first place most folks would think to buy these items, I certainly wouldn’t turn down either if I were given them as a gift. The most unique items sold in Italy are the handmade Comedia dell’Arte masks. While these are not my personal style, I can see where a collection of them would make a nice display in a certain style of home.
Ben fatto, Italia. Ben fatto.
Most the merchandise in the America pavilion is somewhat generically “Yay America.” You’ve got your Old Glory based pillows, tees, and jewelry. And then there’s the bottled tomato sauce. Again, I use this near commodity item on the regular, but who goes on vacation thinking that the one thing they’ve got to bring home to grandma is a jar of the same pasta sauce they could buy at Wegmans. Do cast members buy it on their way home when they realize they don’t have anything planned for dinner for the kiddos?
Another odd foodstuff sold at the American pavilion (as well as at a few other WDW locations) is moonshine. If you want to enjoy your firewater, who am I to judge, but it does seem a bit stereotypically yokum to sell moonshine in the USA while France, Italy, and even Germany sell lovely selections of fine wines. They couldn’t find a California vineyard to promote?
Japan is the true epicenter of Epcot oddities. The entire store is filled with things that practically guaranteed to make the TSA detain you. (I’m talking to you giant swords and exotic weaponry.) On the tamer side, you have bonsai trees. They’re perfectly lovely, but how do you get it home? Forget trying to take it on a plane without destroying it, even an Orlando local would likely find it annoying to shlep back to his car parked in the Discover lot.
Bonus item #1: Cellulite waist wraps. Maybe people buy these after eating one too many kaki goris?
Bonus item #2: Ramen noodles. For the tourist on a budget?
Bonus item #3: Totes bags of ennui. This bag seems like a cute way to transport little Susie’s tap shoes to dance class, but what’s up with the depressing text?
Like many of the countries, Morocco sells a selection of what once may have been exotic grocery items, most of which are now found in my local Stop & Shop. Are there places in America where you can’t buy a dented box of cous cous, making the Epcot purchase a necessity?
Bonus item #1: Coconut hair cream.
Bonus item #2: Rugs. Clearly there’s nothing peculiar about buying a rug. But in a theme park?
France almost gets the same pass as Italy. Most of the French merchandise consists of tasteful kitchenware, luxury cosmetics, and obligatory replica Eiffel Towers. France does, however, let a few questionable items on their shelves, chief among them a collectible Napolean (not the edible kind). Perhaps these are purchased by European history teachers looking to decorate their classrooms?
The Brits can proudly take their place among the countries offering oddball grocery items. I enjoy a pickled onion in my Gibson, but I can’t picture the guest who’s buying pickled onions at Epcot, particularly when you can get them at virtually every supermarket in America. Is there are true difference among brands? And kippers … because you never know when you’ll need some tinned fish to fuel your journey around the park.
Canada shows remarkable restraint in its merchandising. Maple syrup and Tim Horton’s coffee play prominent roles here (but again, who buys this stuff in a theme park?). Their only real nod to odd is shown in their selection of Goat Mountain brand bath products. This Canadian company (also strangely featured in the American Frontierland at the Magic Kingdom) sells soaps, lotions, and lip balms with “humorously” icky names like Sasquatch Sweat, Moose Spit, and Beaver Butt. I guess I don’t have the right funny bone for this.
Have you ever purchased any of these items? What are you favorite oddball Epcot merchandise finds? Would you buy groceries at a theme park? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments below.