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In 2009, Mattel opened Barbie's first flagship store, House of Barbie, in Shanghai, China. Known as the ultimate Barbie dream house, the store failed to reach expectations and closed after just two years.
Why It Failed: House of Barbie Shanghai - GWU Spring 2013
WHY IT FAILED
House of Barbie Shanghai
April 29, 2013
purpose + background
about Mattel, Inc.
understanding China + Shanghai
the new dream house
what went wrong + our thoughts
In 2009, Mattel opened Barbie’s first flagship store,
House of Barbie, in Shanghai, China.
Known as the ultimate Barbie dream house, the store failed
to reach expectations and closed after two years.
strategy + goals
brand perception +
Chinese + Shanghaies
Mattel’s annual reports, earnings call transcripts, press
releases and other public records
News articles, social media, blogs and online reviews
Market research, financial studies, and economic data
int’l net sales
“Creating the World’s Premiere Toy
Brands – Today and Tomorrow”
Mattel’s Corporate Vision, 2008
sell products in
With U.S. sales down, Mattel looked
internationally for growth.
Nearly 90% of American girls have
called Barbie their friend.
Mattel looked to China for growth
and opportunity with Barbie.
top fashion doll
“Barbie represents fashion,
aspiration, and cultural relevance.”
Description of Barbie, by Mattel
over 1 billion
Shanghai: China’s “test” market
As the “highly urbanized, driver of
the Chinese economy” many
brands look to Shanghai for entry.
Shanghai represents 11.3% of
China’s GDP and is viewed as the
“most innovative and cosmopolitan
[city], setting trends in
fashion and lifestyles.”
Mattel’s research showed classic
Barbie tested better than her
Chinese counterpart Ling.
Opened on March 6, 2009, House of Barbie
Shanghai served as the first flagship store.
Located on Huaihai Road, Shanghai’s
premiere luxury shopping street.
The store intended to launch Barbie as a
lifestyle brand for Chinese girls and women.
It was the first, and only, all-doll store in China.
36,000 sq. ft.six floors $43 million
house of barbie
Description of House of Barbie, by Mattel.
“Unapologetically all Barbie”
After less than two years,
House of Barbie closed.
what went wrong
Barbie was not a cultural icon in
China—she couldn’t be a lifestyle.
‘Barbie pink’ is not an immediate
association of the Barbie brand.
Women felt clothing was
over-priced and poorly made,
they wanted “cute, not sexy.”
Hauihai Road includes the top
luxury fashion brands, Barbie
wasn’t one of them.
Hello Kitty, the ultimate ‘cute’
lifestyle brand and Yue-Sai are
admired in China and the world.
Knock-offs and alternative brands
were abundant and cheap.
Shanghaies parents preferred
spending on tutoring or books
than buying dolls and clothes.
Six floors of pink and Barbie
No storefront signage made
the store easy to miss.
Location was difficult to access,
far from metro and core stores.
Chinese love face care, but the Spa
did not make guests feel relaxed.
Too many amenities confused and
At night, the restaurant became a
karaoke bar and lounge called,
“The Pink Club.”
Activities were based in English,
not Mandarin; the language
spoken by young girls.
As a result, activities like the
Fashion Runway and Design Center
were unable to engage guests.
House of Barbie was the first, and only, doll store in China.
The store was modeled after American Girl in the U.S.
The Chinese were not ready for “all Barbie.”
Ultimately, they were overwhelmed and uninterested.
In China, Barbie was not a cultural icon:
she couldn’t be a lifestyle.
The store was overwhelming and
isolated Barbie’s reach to selective,
As global luxury consumers, Chinese expect a
localized shopping experience, and demand a
global brand identity.
Chinese consumers are online, social, and
aware of the global presence of brands.
Use multimedia and co-marketing to associate
Barbie with Chinese cultural icons.
Don’t neglect the merchandise; too many
activities distract the consumer.
Storefront signage is critical, make it big.
Base activities in Mandarin so girls can easily
participate and understand.
Pursue “shop-in-a-shop” mall entry to increase
brand equity and awareness.
Present Barbie as an aspirational brand
to inspire Chinese girls.
So, what would you have done?
April 29, 2013