The overwhelming pinkness aside, we’re going to throw this thought out there: Shanghai’s ginormous Barbie store is actually pretty cool. After a few hours spent meandering through doll city (though our experience was not as intense as CNNGo’s self-challenge) we decided that the awesome Barbie Spa is our favorite feature of the place. Yes, that’s right – we are encouraging you to head on over to 550 Huai Hai Road to get beautified, Barbie-style.
But first: it’s no secret that the world’s only flagship Barbie store isn’t doing so hot at the moment. Sales targets haven’t been met, and each time we visit it feels like Barbie ghost town instead of Barbie metropolis. Since its March opening, we wondered whether a store devoted to the very non-Chinese plastic beauty should even try to up its appeal in this country.
Barbie fan Zhang Teng Mei, 24, from Tianjin was amused at our concern over the possibility of pink-infused doll-shaped cultural imperialism taking over the country (or at least downtown Shanghai). She loves the Barbie concept because it represents a fashionable, cosmopolitan lifestyle that could be lived in any major world city: “I don’t want to be blonde or blue-eyed or American, I want to be young and attractive and travel the world!”
Nowhere in the Barbie store shouts this lifestyle louder than the Barbie Spa. “I wasn’t designed to do house work” Barbie reminds us from one wall. “Turn on the Barbie glam!” she chirps from another.
Surprisingly, the spa area isn’t operating on pink-overload like the rest of the store. Bright, white, and spacious, it’s the perfect place to go into a state of Barbie relaxation and zen. We’ve gotten our hair and nails done there on several occasions and have always been treated like plastic royalty, from complete meticulousness over our cuticles to ensuring that each strand of hair is perfectly curled and in place.
If we are this happy over basic hair and nail services, how
awesome would the more complicated treatments be? Flipping through the
“Barbie Spa Menu”, we noted a few services that adventurous readers
could perhaps try out (and tell us about):
- Wonder Luxe
facial, 90 minutes, RMB 680. Yes, it’s a really pricey facial. But
that’s because it “hydrates, lifts, firms and smoothes the skin with
protein rich Caviar”. That kinda sounds delicious, except in reality
the gunky goop on your face will never remind you of yummy fish eggs.
- Shanghai Surprise
body scrub, 60 minutes, RMB 380. Aside from the usual exfoliation of
dead and dry skin cells, it also “encourages free flow of chi
throughout the body”. We could always do with more flowy chi.
- Oh So Sweet
body wrap, 60 minutes, RMB 580. Maybe we just like all the treatments
that remind us of food. This one is described as a “Hot Chocolate Body
Treat” that “stimulates circulation, helps breakdown fat deposits,
improves skin tone and elasticity”. Oh, and of course you will be
covered head to toe in (inedible) chocolate.
- Barbie Bust Firming,
45 minutes, RMB 380. Um. It consists of “a soothing peeling, a lymph
drainage using aroma essence and highly concentrated active ampoules”.
We’re not quite sure what goes on in this treatment, but Barbie
certainly does have some perky assets we wouldn’t mind having too.
- Gentlemen’s Facial,
75 minutes, RMB 280. This one is for you guys, a special treat just for
the male complexion. Don’t scoff – Ken was pretty plastic perfect too.
- If individual services are way too pricey, consider the spa’s monthly specials. Until November 30, the Barbie Escape Spa Package gives you a number of treatments (including facial and body scrub) for RMB 488, down from RMB 880.
- …and last but not least: Barbie Face Painting, 15 minutes, RMB 38. Why not?
Shanghai gets chillier, hibernating in the warm Barbie Spa wrapped up
in chocolate doesn’t sound like a bad idea. Spa manager Michelle Hu
expects winter to bring in more customers: “Although visitor numbers
have been low, things should pick up during the Christmas season.” We
also agree with her that there’s just too little local publicity
focusing on the Barbie Spa, since what news there is usually concerns
the overwhelming 6-floor megastore as a whole.
the other hand, international publicity seems to be working. We bumped
into Jackie Liew, 55, from Singapore who came to the Barbie store after
a phone call from her sister in Australia. “My sister lives in Sydney,
she called me when she knew I was coming to Shanghai, told me she saw
something on TV about a big Barbie store,” laughed Jackie, who was
attracted to the spa and ended up pampering herself with a pedicure. “I
have to call her to tell her I’m actually here!”
With news traveling globally and visitor numbers slowly picking up,
perhaps there’s hope for a more vibrant Barbie Megastore, and
subsequently the Barbie Spa. Until then, we will be the frequent
customers swimming in chocolate, smeared with caviar, and our feet
dunked in a green tea essence bath.