‘Overwhelming’ crowds force Build-A-Bear stores to tell customers to ‘stay home’

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July 12, 2018 5:37 pm Published by

Today’s Build-A-Bear Workshop promotion — the first to offer “furry friends” at a sizable “pay your age” discount — has proven to be so successful that the company has issued an alert for other customers to stay home.

“The response to our Pay Your Age Day event has been overwhelming and unprecedented in our 21-year history, and the safety of our Guests and associates is our top priority,” the statement read. “The crowds have greatly exceeded our expectations and, per local authorities, U.S. stores cannot accept any additional Guests for this event and are limiting lines due to extreme crowds and safety concerns.

“We understand our affected Guests may be disappointed, and we are working to address the situation. We will reach out directly to our valued Guests as soon as possible.”

Photos posted early Thursday on social media and NBC showed crowds at East Coast malls. On the West Coast, stores were just opening when the company sent out its alert.

But at Oakridge Mall in San Jose, customers were still being allowed to queue up. By 11 a.m. the crowd stretched from the Build A Bear store to the Hot Dog on Stick stand, about three-quarters the mall length away.

San Jose resident Consuelo Carrillo, 35, brought her 8- and 9-year-old children to line up at 10 a.m., when the store was just opening. She said she woke her kids early and took time away from her home business so her children could add to their collection of three bears. As a club member, she received an email about the deal on Monday.

“Build-A-Bear should have prepared a little bit more, especially if they were going to advertise on social media so heavily the way that they did,” Carrillo said. “I just think it’s disappointing hearing this morning that East Coast stores were closing kind of early; maybe West coast stores went and got their backstock and put them in their stores. And it looked like they didn’t prepare for that either.”

Carrillo braved the crowds for a chance to save big, noting that “$39 a bear is a lot. And that’s just for the bear.

“We walk out $50 in so this kind of deal is very appealing to the consumer that people take the day off from work, and people have made adjustments,” she added. “It just should’ve been planned out better.”

Parents and kids wait in line for close to an hour at Coral Square mall in Coral Springs, Fla., for the Build-A-Bear Workshop Pay Your Age day event, Thursday, July 12, 2018. Customers were allowed customers to purchase a bear and pay their current age with a cap at $29, which was also available at its United Kingdom stores. The chain known for its customizable teddy bears and other stuffed toys couldn’t handle the crowds Thursday and had to turn shoppers away. (Carline Jean/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP) 

NBC posted photos of packed East Coast malls. On the West Coast, stores were just opening when the company sent out its alert.

The promotion, announced earlier this week, offered any customer who signed up in advance the opportunity to select any “furry friend” in the collection and pay their age in dollars. (Outfits, accessories, music and scents are not included.)

The savings would depend on the age of the customer and the retail price of the stuffed animal. For example, a 4-year-old would pay $4; most of the bears cost $20 to $30 without accessories. The most anyone would pay is $29.

Having spent $50 on their 2-year-old son’s first Build-A-Bear, Morgan Hill resident Brandon Jack, 28, arrived at 7:45 a.m. at Oakridge Mall with his wife and son. The teachers for San Jose Unified were on summer vacation and their son usually wakes up early in the morning anyway.

By 11 a.m., their son was antsy but the line had brought them to within sight of the store.

“He doesn’t understand the concept of having to wait,” Jack said of his son. “So he just wants to go in there and get his stuffed animal.”

Those who signed up for the deal can follow the company’s website, www.buildabear.com, for further news on participation.

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