When Tito Lizenau's marketing company set up a small "House Of Barbie" in a mall in Buenos Aires, he was amazed at the reaction: Girls waited for hours to get in, and their mothers wanted to buy the clothes he'd hung up as decoration, even though they had nothing to do with Barbie. So Lizenau persuaded Mattel to license a Barbie "fashion-tainment" venue — he and two associates put up half a million dollars of their own money — and the Barbie Store opened in September. Located in the chic Palermo neighborhood, the boutique features a $7 an hour playroom (which can be rented for birthday parties and special events), with dolls, toys, costumes, makeup, jewelry and a catwalk.
There's also a beauty salon, where girls can get fancy hairdos and face painting. A few Barbies are for sale, as well as pink clothes and accessories designed and made in Argentina, and only available at the Barbie Store. Loizeau wanted to sell Barbie outfits in kid sizes, but moms in focus groups nixed that idea. The clothes available at the store are "basic" with matching items for dolls, and originally were sized for girls between the ages of 3 and 9. But girls as old as 16 came in wanting Barbie clothes and Loizeau's added larger sizes. He may add adult clothing.
Loizaneau's making about 40% more than he projected he would: Girls love the Barbie Store. "There are girls who come every single day," Loizeau says. The playroom is always packed, and especially chaotic on Saturday afternoons. "When the time is up, they ask their mothers for another hour."
American Girl stores are popular in the US partly because they're one of the few places you can get the dolls. Barbies can be purchased at other places: The sole draw of the Buenos Aires store is trying out the Barbie "lifestyle": Tall, blonde, dream-house living, Corvette-driving, ambiguously employed, mysteriously funded? You know, what every little girl dreams of!
Argentine Entrepreneurs Score A Hit With The First Barbie Entertainment Theme Store [International Herald Tribune]