SHANGHAI (Reuters) – For Zeng Sheng, the manager at Shanghai Maiyi Arts, this autumn should have been a boon for business: with the U.S. presidential election, demand for the centre’s wax replicas of Donald Trump should have been off the charts.
Instead, the spread of the coronavirus has halted new orders and stalled overseas travel, including to and from the United States. He is now holding off on producing a replica of Joe Biden.
“Tourist sites, amusement parks, houses of famous people are temporarily not open,” Zeng said. “Since they can’t resume work, we can’t get new orders.”
Shanghay Maiyi Arts was founded in 2012 as a manufacturer and supplier of wax figures.
Located in the outskirts of Shanghai, about an hour’s drive from the city centre, its exhibition hall also doubles as makeshift museum, where guests can pose next to replicas of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, martial arts star Jackie Chan, and others.
Zeng says that by 2019, the company was shipping up to 700 figures annually to customers, with about one-third going overseas.
The virus, however, hit orders twice: first in China, when factories and tourist sites closed, and then overseas. Business remains about two-thirds its normal size, Zeng says.
Zeng says that the hardest part of making a replica is the face. It can take a month alone to design and sculpt perfect features.
The company uses specialists to make a replica’s hair and clothing. It can take three months to bring a figure to fruition, from start to finish.
Although Trump is the company’s best-selling model in the United States, in China, the top seller is something closer to home: a replica of a security guard, asleep and slumped in a chair, brings in the most orders.
Last year the shop produced 16 Trump wax statues, six of which went abroad.