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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: March 7, 2011 @ 1:30 pm

    Barbie’s pink dream house fades to grey

    Laura Slattery

    The six-storey Barbie flagship store in Shanghai has shut down. Photo: STR/AFP/Getty Images

    It was blessed with a restaurant, a spa and more Schiaparelli pink than a candyfloss museum, but now Mattel’s flagship Barbie concept store in China has shut down after less than two years. Based in central Shanghai, the retail haven for all-things-Barbie was part of toymaker Mattel’s grand push into Asia – and as such was at all too safe a distance from the pester power of the multi-careered doll’s Western fanbase.

    Mattel told the Bloomberg news wire this morning that it was planning a new “brand strategy” in China for Barbra Millicent Roberts, who at 52 years of age* is still not showing much sign of middle-age spread (although her waist is wider now than it was as late as the 1990s). The Shanghai sales were a bit lean, however, obliging Mattel to lower its targets for the 37,700 square foot store three times since its opening in March 2009.

    Despite the fact that her plastic limbs and blonde locks are, unsurprisingly, put together in China (and Indonesia), brand awareness of Barbie in the world’s fastest-growing economy hasn’t been sufficient to keep the dream house open for business. Luckily for Mattel, some $3 billion worth of Barbie-branded products are sold worldwide every year.

    Parents unnerved by all the princess pink that mushrooms out of the girls’ aisles in stringently gender-segregated toystores shouldn’t worry too much, however. Academic research published by the marketing expert Dr Agnes Nairn in 2005 suggests that as girls grow older, they reject Barbie – by, er, torturing her. Maiming, shaving, decapitating, microwaving… Barbie barbarism is just a rite of passage for the maturing Barbie-owner. Indeed, it’s probably only a matter of time before Mattel cashes in with its own Doll Destroyer Kit.

    * Technically, Barbie is 51. But it’s her birthday on Wednesday.

    • Kynos says:

      Sounds like Barbie’s Dream House wouldn’t sell as well as Barbie’s Gitmo. Maybe Airfix could bring out a Barbie sized Gulfstream jet (tailfin N379P) and Ken in an Irish guards or customs uniform resolutely ignoring it? We could show our Chinese brethren that our lao-gai have a certain sense of style tha theirs doesnt. Btw in PRC ads for ladies’ undergarments must feature non-Chinese i.e. western models. PRC maidens are officially deemed too modest to flaunt their charms thus and aren’t allowed by law to. And my sisters all had Barbies and I never saw them torture or maim them tho I confess to at age 14 using a couple for target practice sighting in me old BSA Meteor .177 pellet rifle and Barnett Imp X-bow one day. Felt terrible about it after. specially when my sisters found out and wanted to kill me. But I’d lost my Action Man by then and the Barbies were the right scale to enact the Day of the Jackal or the Texas Book Depository from dad’s garage roof when you’ve only a muzzle velocity of 20 fps.


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