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March 8, 2011

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Barbie on the bus as shop shuts

Barbie Shanghai, the world's first flagship store for the world's most famous doll, closed its doors yesterday, just two days before the iconic toy's 52nd birthday.

Mattel Inc opened the store just two years ago, on March 6, 2009, on Shanghai's bustling Huaihai Road M.

The six-story store featured a spa, cafe, design studio, fashion stage and shelves and shelves of Barbies and Barbie products.

In a statement, Mattel, the world's biggest toy maker, explained that it was planning to use its experience in Shanghai to reach customers across China.

"I have gone on a tour of China!" a cartoon Barbie says on the store's website, explaining the brand is on a "Barbie Pink Bus Tour."

The website,, also said that all the other Barbie sales outlets in Shanghai would remain open.

Barbie Shanghai was operated directly by United States-based Mattel, while the other retail outlets are partnership stores.

"In the past two years, the store has accomplished its mission, which is to promote the overall Barbie brand in China," said Mattel spokeswoman Linda Du.

She said the company would have a new development strategy in China, including expanding business to more cities around the country. But she declined to give further details.

The sudden closure of the store has left customers wondering about their purchases, and the validity of their Barbie Shanghai membership cards, which offered 5 percent discounts on in-store merchandise.

"I only used the membership card once," was one online comment. Du, however, said membership cards would no longer be valid.

Another poster said she was in the store on Sunday and everything seemed to be fine. "I still want to buy more clothes for my dolls," she said. "But I just called the hotline and confirmed that the store is really closed for good."

The customer hotline is 400 620 8181 (10am-5pm).

Mattel is not the only foreign retailer with a large investment in the huge but challenging Chinese market to change strategy.

The closing of Barbie's citadel of all things pink follows the closure last month of all of electronics retailer Best Buy's nine stores in China. Best Buy is instead focusing on expanding outlets with its locally acquired chain Jiangsu Five Star Appliance Co.

Mattel, based in El Segundo, California, inaugurated its Shanghai store just before the 50th birthday of the Barbie brand, bringing together 45 product lines, including trampolines, jewelry and stationery.

Though sales of Barbie and other Mattel dolls have shown strong growth back in the United States, the Shanghai store never took off as a popular attraction for local girls.


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