What Went Wrong: Build-A-Bear Workshop

Jamie Grill-Goodman
Editor in Chief
Jamie goodman

Build-A-Bear Workshop’s "Pay Your Age Day" event generated an overwhelming response, resulting in long lines and disappointed shoppers when the experiential retailer had to turn away customers, citing "crowds and safety concerns."

In a nutshell, the retailer, which allows children to create their own stuffed animals, hosted its first "Pay Your Age Day" event in all U.S., Canada and U.K. stores on July 12, meaning if a child is four years old the entire in-store collection of "furry friends," including licensed characters, would be available to that child for $4.00. However a surge of shoppers resulted in chaos and this statement from Build-A-Bear on Twitter:

  • @buildabear Jul 12

    **Urgent Alert: Per local authorities, we cannot accept additional Guests at our locations due to crowd safety concerns. We have closed lines in our stores. We understand some Guests are disappointed and we will reach out directly as soon as possible. http://bit.ly/2Jgo6kP 

To participate in the event, parents needed to enroll in the Build-A-Bear Bonus Club rewards program or provide a valid email address and name, and were advised to enroll in the loyalty program "before arriving at stores on July 12 to save time at checkout."

While the event might have turned out to be a massive e-mail grab from the company, it also led to angry parents and children lined up in malls for hours before the retailer shut down the promotion, many of whom took to social media to express their disappointment.

The retailer noted in a statement, "based on the information available to us before the day began, we could not have predicted this reaction to our Pay Your Age Day event."

Build-A-Bear also distributed $15.00 off vouchers to shoppers present in lines and made vouchers available to Build-A-Bear Bonus Club members in the U.S. and Canada who log into their account, extending the deadline to do so until 11:59 CDT on July 18.

Vouchers will be honored through August 31, 2018 and the retailer noted "our goal with the voucher extension is to enable us to better flow traffic to the stores over the next several weeks to avoid long lines and wait times as much as possible." Build-A-Bear advises shoppers to "consider delaying their trip to Build-A-Bear."

Did Build-A-Bear's response and $15 vouchers do enough to smooth over shopper frustrations? Bears are typically priced around $20 to $35.

  • @MissBelleLish Jul 12

    Stood in line for 3 hours only to be told to go home with a $15 coupon. There were no supply limitations until today. We should've been given a pay your age voucher! #PayYourAge #FalseAd

Granted, the promotion was a kick off to the retailer's "Count Their Candles" deal where shoppers can pay their age for the Birthday Treat Bear (normally $14) in the month of their birthday, an offer that will be available all year long.

Still, some shoppers were left wondering why the company seemed to have such bad planning in the first place.

  • @ShellyDavis05 Jul 12

    Hey @buildabear, maybe instead of inviting the entire world to your store in one day, you should have sent your loyal customers a code or coupon for them to #PayYourAge at their convience through the month of July.


While the promotion was a huge success in terms of turn out and publicity (albeit bad), has Build-A-Bear irrefutably damaged its brand image? The fact the company must have generated a massive amount of new loyalty members isn't lost on the public.

  • @firebirdblog Jul 12

    Me and a friend thought we would saunter along to @buildabear #PayYourAge day... big mistake! Thank goodness the kids were too young to care but pretty mad about all the data they've harvested from this - how many signed up then didn't get one?

CEO Sharon Price John apologized to the public Friday on the "Today" show.

"There was really no way for us to have estimated those crowds. We were fully stocked, fully staffed. If I could do it over though — if there was a way to extend the day to just make sure we service everyone, I would have loved to have seen everyone get a bear."

"We couldn't throughput," she said simply before apologizing to those who didn't get a bear at the event.

Is Build-A-Bear's response correct for the situation? Do you think this will have lasting effects on its brand equity? Email us your thoughts at [email protected].

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