A six-storey £20 million pink-tinged palace in Shanghai has become the world's biggest Barbie store

Tens of thousands of Chinese fans are expected to turn out to welcome Barbara Millicent Roberts, or "Ba Bi Wa Wa" as she is known in the country

After a number of delays, Barbie's new 37,000 sq ft home opened on Friday, just three days before her 50th birthday

The doll's makers, Mattel, insist that the new store will capture the imagination not just of young girls, but of Chinese women of all ages with over 1,600 products for sale

For younger girls, the store offers a catwalk on which they can model Barbie-esque clothes and a troupe of assistants to teach them how to sing and dance to the "Barbie Girl" song

Richard Dickson, who has spearheaded the project for Mattel, said his favourite feature is the Pink Tunnel, a neon-lit escalator which hums with the pre-recorded sound of giggling girls

We've been working on this idea for three years, then we came to the decision that since it is a whole new concept, it should be happening in the most 'future' place in the world," said Mr Dickson. "That's why we have chosen Shanghai"

The store boasts a café with food designed by local celebrity chef David Laris, who admits that it was an "unlikely" partnership, as well as "The Pink Room", a bar complete with karaoke, a DJ and pink martinis

"Barbies want to talk to Kens, you have to have a place for that," said Hayes Zhou, the food manager at the store

Visitors can also use a day spa, get their hair cut and their nails done, and shop for accessories and clothes modelled on Barbie's fashion tastes

Exhibition-style displays showcase dolls from the past 50 years, where women can buy exact reproductions of the dolls they played with as children regardless of whether that was in the 1960s, '70s, '80s or '90s

A doll factory allows customers to use computers to design dolls with skin tone, hair colour and clothes matching their unique specifications

Blond, blue-eyed Barbie may seem like an unlikely fit for Chinese girls, but the Shanghai store is a crucial step in Mattel's efforts to make China the doll's number one market

China is likely to be an enormous market for the doll, even with the £25 price tag of the Shanghai Barbie doll, an exclusive model that will only be available in the new store. The cost of the doll is an entire week's salary for a factory worker

More stores are planned to eventually be rolled out around the world, but they are unlikely to match the scale of the Shanghai store

With the store, Dickson said Mattel is trying follow the example of other brands, such as Apple Computers and Ralph Lauren, to establish a direct connection with consumers

The Barbie store in Shanghai: the ultimate doll's house - Telegraph