Shanghai Barbie

Tuesday, March 17, 2009 1:47
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Shanghai Barbie Store

When the doors opened, its marketing managers proved themselves as throngs of people made their way through the store. Both the domestic and international press cores were there to cover the action, and as you can see in the CBS piece below, it is a model that a number of people are studying with interest.

Having just come off a retail project, I must admit that when I walked into the store I immediately was impressed by the quality of the work that went into the design and build out. It was impressive, and you could really feel a buzz among the crowd as they were making their way up the escalator and into the main room.

Once in the main room, I was again impressed from the perspective of layout, design, and just how many people were in the room. It was … impressive.

It reminded me a lot of when I was in H&M for the first time. People everywhere. Activity. Sounds. the atmosphere was a buzz with people, and it was easy to understand where the writers before me were dazzled. It all seemed to “work”.

Where I was really interested was the fact that this was not some Barbie doll shop, but that there were full product lines devoted to adults. Purses, 5000 USD diamond necklaces, and Barbie dolls dressed to the 9s in Vera Wong. It was simply put, a whole new concept store that put into perspective the comments that had been made about Barbie going into new markets.

Again. It seemed to “work”

With 150+ people in the main room (see picture), the store had obviously done a great job of attracting people, the question for me was whether or not they were the right people.

By demographic – perfect. Families with single daughters in tow. Young girls (18-30). and paired mothers.

It was clear that they had brought them in, but the problem I saw was that many of the people were actually not shoppers, or window shoppers, but tourists who had come with camera phones and handycams to take pictures of themselves in front of product/ displays.

The people were there, but it was going to be important going forward to make sure that the cameras were replaced by shopping bags going forward. That the store could not be some permanent tourist attraction.

Shanghai Barbie Store

It was something that I looked to quantify in some manner with a pass by the check out counters, and I must say that there were 15-20 people in line with items in hand. A far cry from the madhouse H&M and others have generated, but to see 5-10% of the crowd at the counter offered reassurance that there were some buying going on.

Again, the key will be to develop this out further and to improve the average purchase. The rent alone of the 6 floor building will require it.

The second issue I saw, and it is perhaps the more difficult one, is the fact that you had hundreds of cameras in the room taking shots of product at very close quarters. IP is going to be very difficult to maintain, and should someone bring a product to the market that is 1/3 the price and “close enough”, it could impact Barbie’s value proposition.

Both of these issues though are addressable, and while perhaps they could in fact become long term net positives… tourists show pictures to their friends… and flagships (assuming Barbie has more than one store in the planning) can sell for other shops.

Clearly, Barbie has entered a very interesting market at a very interesting time, and while there will be some interesting challenges ahead, I am of the opinion that this is a concept that has a nice set of legs on it.

The tills in the makeup area had no line

2) With so many cameras in the room, Barbie knock offs are almost an absolute certainty.

People, by the dozen were getting shots of product in ways that would make any merchandiser nervous.

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