Since Build-A-Bear Workshop’s inception, its mission has been to bring entertainment back to retail. More than 10 years later, the company is merging this mind-set with the social-networking trend. As a result, Build-A-Bear Workshop is providing its young shoppers with a safe community to play in with peers and express their creativity.
This year marks Build-A-Bear Workshop’s 11th anniversary, and the company has plenty to be proud of. Besides being considered the 10th largest toy store in the United States, the chain operates more than 370 locations. The chain also generated $474.4 million in sales for its fiscal year 2007.
Build-A-Bear Workshop was the brainchild of founder and “chief executive bear” Maxine Clark, but she credits the chain’s successful business plan to her godchild Katie. More than a decade ago, Clark and Katie, like many people, were caught up in the Beanie Baby craze.
“The two talked about how it would be ‘cool’ to build your own Beanie Babies, and a business plan emerged,” Dave Finnegan, the chain’s CIO (or chief “inbearmation” officer as he is known throughout the company) said during the Technology & Operations Store Summit (TOPSS), held in Las Vegas in June. Chain Store Age and Retail Technology Quarterly sponsored the event.
That business plan morphed into one store which opened in St. Louis. Today, the chain is a household name. Based on an interactive experience that allows shoppers to create their own stuffed animals and friends, Build-A-Bear Workshop’s guests have created more than 60 million stuffed animals to date.
“While our core demographic is female tweens, the stores appeal to a wide range of guests,” Finnegan explained during the session, “Extending the Store Experience Online.” “But at the core of our chain is the children. Kids are the master of their destiny in this space, and that is what inspires us.”
In fact, it is their passion that has prompted the company to explore new opportunities beyond the store’s four walls and into cyberspace. More specifically, Build-A-Bear Workshop