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Barbie Fails in the China Market: Mattel's inability to localize the Barbie brand

  • ID: 2237225
  • September 2012
  • Region: China
  • 20 pages
  • MarketLine


Mattel opened its largest free-standing Barbie store in Shanghai in March 2009. Shanghai did not prove receptive to the Barbie brand. Mattel closed down the store a mere two years after opening, having made continual losses. It was Mattel’s inability to localize the Barbie brand and apply a strategy based on market realities that led to the downfall of the American doll brand.

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- MarketLine Case Studies describe topics such as innovative products, business models, and significant company acquisitions.
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China maintains one of the most lucrative and rapidly expanding retail markets in the world. Despite the global economic downturn, China's retail sales hit $2.9tn in 2011, up 17.1% year-on-year. China's booming retail sales can be put down to the steady rise in household incomes.
Mattel’s choice to open a single superstore Barbie outlet on an exclusive shopping street, as opposed to numerous cross-country, mall-located outlets, was a major contributor to the store's losses.
The "experience store" format proved unsuccessful and did not resonate well with the majority of the Chinese consumer market. The hope that an organic buying approach would emerge from the use of on-site facilities never materialized.

Your key questions answered

- What should you consider when preparing to enter the Chinese retail market?
- Is it necessary to localize your brand when entering a new market?

Note: Product cover images may vary from those shown

The birth of the Barbie brand


Mattel's global expansion strategies

Western Europe

Eastern Europe

The Middle East


The Shanghai opening

The appeal of China

Mattel's China strategy
Why Barbie failed in the China market


Experience store model

Cultural appeal


Considerations for entering the China retail market

Understanding local requirements

Investigating the market

Considering the product
Mattel's inability to localize the Barbie brand led to its Chinese demise
Further reading
Ask the analyst
About MarketLine

Note: Product cover images may vary from those shown
Note: Product cover images may vary from those shown


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