This past month my daughter reached another milestone. Not a developmental one, or a physical one, or even an educational one. No, this last month my daughter got her first Barbie doll. Well, so what, she is a girl after all and is almost 3 years old. Well, for starters it balances her love for Ultra Man, the Japanese kids show similar to Godzilla but where you have a guy fighting monsters around scale models of cities. Second, is shows her awareness of targeted marketing and desire to join a peer group.
First off I have to explain something about Barbie here in Shanghai. Sure, its a doll you can get at Carrefour, Toy’s R Us, or other department stores, even the ‘fake’ ones you can get at smaller markets. Barbie is still a doll with clothes and such but as many things in Asia, she has become larger then life. About a year ago they opened a dedicated Barbie Store here in Shanghai, on Hua Hai Road, its one of the ‘highest end’ shopping streets (very close to Nan Jing Shi Road which is another) we have here. So what I can hear some of you say, well you have to see it to believe it. For starters, its the LARGEST Barbie store in the world, no kidding. Second its a full service Chinese style take on a western theme, meaning they take something with brand recognition and expand it to many levels beyond rational thought.
As you can see the store is 6 levels; a lobby with a mini-store, a full spa and beauty parlor, 2 levels of Barbie dolls and clothes, and a photo studio and cafe. This explanation however is not sufficient. The store includes a huge spiral staircase surrounded with hundreds of Barbies, all in pink. Actually most of the store is pink, so much so I strongly recommend any man stay away from the store.
My daughter got a Barbie passport, yes a passport including picture and pages for stamps at areas like the photo studio, fashion show, spa, etc. She also gets a discount and special cash registers that only passport holders can visit. She was not all that interested in the wall of Barbie that highlights the fashion and style of each year of Barbie. She liked the specialty Barbies like the Gone With the Wind and Barbies of the World displays, but not so much the ones that were over $1,000 (thank goodness). There was even an Elvis and Pricilla Presley Barbie set, oddly enough Ken is all over the store too, despite the very public divorce.
So after half a day in the store my daughter was quite happy. She saw thousands of Barbies, clothes, accessories, photo props, and we even had lunch in the Barbie Cafe (food not too impressive but service was outstanding). We of course went there to get a Barbie, and I let my daughter know she could only get one, so choose carefully. She did, she got the set that includes kids tattoos as well as tattoos for the doll. She loved the store and had a good time, but has not asked to go back in 2 weeks now.
She has since played with the doll, however not as frequent as the first week, she plays more with the Ultra Man toys. She is more interested in the tattoos then anything else. There are a few times that kids reach certain phases that mark their development. First steps, first words, eating by yourself, potty training, so forth and so on. Its incredible to see kids go through these phases. As my daughter grows its amazing to see how aware of things she is. At just over 2 and half years old she was aware we had a Barbie Store here (not aware its the largest in the world or unique in its services) and wanted to go because a friend of hers at school mentioned it in class. I don’t know for how long she will remember this experience, most likely she will if we go back a few time (if we do I will have to take my PSP and extra shots of testosterone to counter all the pink and stuff). Because they have birthday parties, photo studios, etc. I am sure we will go back a few times.