Barbie opens first flagship store in Shanghai

Fri Mar 6, 2009 2:12pm EST
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By Royston Chan

SHANGHAI (Reuters Life!) - Mattel's Barbie opened her first flagship store on Friday, a fuchsia-infused six-storey showpiece on a glitzy Shanghai thoroughfare where the toymaker hopes to revive the 50-year-old fashion doll's fading fortunes.

Film stars Jet Li and Cathy Chung mingled with models posing as life-sized Barbies and Kens as crowds thronged Shanghai Barbie's cafe, fashion stage and three-storey spiral staircase lined with displays of dolls.

The store will also be a testing ground for new marketing strategies and services, including a design center where visitors can create their own dolls.

"I feel so happy to be able to see so many Barbie dolls. They are so beautiful and I have never before seen so many of them," said 8-year-old Li Yuqin from Shanghai.

Mattel, the world's biggest toymaker, hopes the store and the concepts on trial there will help Barbie bounce back against tough competition from edgier dolls, video games and electronic toys.

Sales of Barbie, Mattel's flagship brand, have been slipping even faster than the company's recession-hit revenue, dropping 21 percent in the fourth quarter compared with an 11 percent slide in total company sales.

"Where we're going in the future is ... how to experience the Barbie brand. That's what this store really is," said Richard Dickson, a senior vice president in charge of the Barbie brand.

He said China, where Barbie sales are relatively small despite wide brand recognition, was chosen as the site for the first flagship store due in part to its large population and vast market potential.   Continued...

<p>Women take photographs of Barbie dolls on a display during the opening ceremony of Barbie Shanghai flagship store in Shanghai March 6, 2009. REUTERS/Aly Song</p>