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Barbie flagship store to open in Shanghai amid global sales downturn
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World's premier toy company Mattel is expected to open its first Barbie flagship store in Shanghai next month in Shanghai, the country's economic hub, in hope of a market expansion in China when its global sales contracted.

The 3,500 square meter, six-floor Barbie flagship store along Shanghai's trendy Huaihai Road, is expected to open on March 7 to celebrate the brand's 50th anniversary, said Julia Jensen, Mattel's vice president of Public Relation and Communication International said in an e-mail to Xinhua.

The store will include all products and services under the Barbie brand, including dolls, apparel, confectionery, stationery,bubble bath, outdoor toys and electronics.

With only seven-year history in China, Barbie's flagship store in China is a key part of the marketing exposure of the brand.

"Such move is an important one of Mattel's strategy towards China's market," Jensen said.

However, Barbie is also facing fierce competition under such a gloomy economic situation.

"The market positioning of Barbie is quite different from Chinese toy brands. I don't think the flagship store would have much impact on the sales of Chinese toys," said Xie Min, the business department head of Huaihai Youth Articles Store, several hundred meters away from the pink Barbie flagship.

"China's toy market has long seen foreign brands including Winnie the Pooh and Mickey. Compared with them, Barbie is still less competitive in terms of its franchisers and product chain," says Xie.

Mattel's net sales in 2008 were US$5.92 billion, a 1 percent decline from last year. The fourth quarter net sales were US$1.94 billion, an 11 percent decrease from last year, according to the Mattel financial results released on Feb. 2.

The worldwide gross sales for Barbie brand were down 9 percent in 2008 than the previous year.

(Xinhua News Agency February 20, 2009)

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