SHANGHAI –-Barbie’s sole freestanding store in the world has shuttered its doors.
The Barbie Shanghai store, a six-floor palace of shiny pink featuring a spa and café, closed Monday. The flagship store on Huaihai Road opened on March 2009 to coincide with Barbie’s 50th anniversary celebrations. The store was part of a broader effort to market Barbie as a fashion and beauty brand beyond its signature dolls.
Mattel, which owns Barbie, downplayed the significance of the two-year-old store’s closure. A spokeswoman claims the decision was not “based on sales results.”
“China is such an important market for Barbie and Mattel,” the spokeswoman said. “This is a strategic change. It is not because of a financial or retail reason. If you look at the concept store, the primary purpose was not for retail, it was for the brand concept, to promote the culture of the brand. We have learned a lot and now want to bring that experience to more regions so more Chinese can benefit from it.”
The spokeswoman declined to provide details on Mattel’s new strategy here. A statement from the company said that the Shanghai Barbie store had “successfully attracted tens of thousands of loyal customers and accomplished its mission to promote the overall Barbie brand and build a strong foundation for Barbie’s future progress in China.”
Paul French of the Shanghai-based firm Access Asia claims the store had been struggling and failed to meet sales targets. Mattel misjudged the market, he said. Young women in China are quite different from their counterparts in Japan who have a “prolonged adolescence” until they marry, move out of the house and get a job, he explained.
“In their late teens, Chinese girls become women, they get jobs and they take on responsibilities, so the whole idea of…‘let’s go to a toy shop and have a drink,’ it does not really appeal to Chinese girls very much,” he said.
French also said the Barbie doll concept was too “sexual” for Chinese mothers shopping for their children.