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Build-A-Bear Workshop Goes High-Tech

BY Marianne Wilson

Build-A-Bear Workshop has gone high-tech. The company has unveiled a new store environment that combines its signature hands-on bear-making experience with innovative digital technology designed to appeal to today’s tech-savvy kids.

“The new design provides a fresh experience for a new generation of kids, while keeping the aspects of our experience that has been loved by kids and resulted in over 100 million stuffed animals being made in our stores,” said Maxine Clark, founder and CEO, Build-A-Bear Workshop, St. Louis. “It allows guests of all ages to personalize the bear-making process and offers them a different experience each time they visit a Build-A-Bear Workshop store.”

The new format, which premiered in the renovated Build-A-Bear Workshop at West County Center, St. Louis, also provides more interactive options to keep shoppers coming back. The retailer is on track to have six of the newly imagined stores open by the end of 2012. The initial results are encouraging.

“Sales at all locations (with the new design) are up 30% or more, exceeding our expectations,” Clark said. “The sales increase is a result of higher traffic and transactions. The stores are driving repeat and new guest visits and keeping strong average transaction value. We know that it is early, but by all metrics, these stores are off to a great start.”

Two years in the making, the design is the first significant overhaul of Build-A-Bear Workshop’s store environment since the chain was launched 15 years ago. The changes start on the facade, which now features a large digital sign that features Microsoft’s Kinect technology and interactive touch elements. Shoppers can play games on the screen with a wave of their hands.

The stuffed animal-making experience remains the core of the store experience. But the overall environment has been updated with several high-tech stations that increase hands-on engagement. The space also now has audio “zones” that use acoustic technology beams sound to target a specific listening area without the ambient noise of traditional speakers, so that sounds can be targeted to specific parts of the store.

The new elements also allow for increased personalization. At the “Hear Me” station, shoppers, using an interactive touch screen, can select and load current music or other sounds onto a chip to customize their stuffed animals. They can also record their own voice.

At the “Fluff Me” station, shoppers can play with their new pets at a “water rippling and splashing” digital bath tub that is enabled by Samsung’s SUR40 with Microsoft PixelSense technology. The tub recognizes items as they are placed on it and reacts with sensory effects, such as virtual bubbles that appear when play soap is placed on the “water surface.”

In another new element, scents, ranging from chocolate chip to bubble gum to cotton candy, can be embedded in the stuffed animal.

What is Clark’s favorite part of the design?

“Many of the young guests who have visited the store have told me that the whole store is their favorite rather than preferring one station over another,” she said. “I would have to say that I agree.”

The new environment is designed with modular components that can be added to stores as a whole or in part.

“We are currently evaluating the stores to identify the features that have the highest engagement with our guests,” Clark said. “As we renew leases and maintain our stores, we will add components so that all stores will eventually have some or all of the new experiential components.”

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Staples rethinks, shrinks the box

BY CSA STAFF

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. — Staples has launched a new packaging technology nationwide that allows them to customize delivery box sizes to each order. Staples “smart-size” packaging, developed by Packsize International, is convenient for customers and also improves supply chain sustainability and efficiency.

With delivery boxes custom fit to each order, customers don’t need to break down oversized boxes and excessive air “pillows.” Smart-size packaging reduces air pillow use by 60 percent and the average cardboard box size by 20 percent. This results in an estimated annual carbon footprint reduction of 30,200 tons, equivalent to about 120,000 trees. Customized box sizes also allow more shipments to fit on each line haul and more orders to fit in each delivery truck. In addition, just-in-time packaging with Smart-size reduces costs and warehouse space from storing delivery boxes.

“At Staples, our supply chain team works tirelessly to help ensure a great customer experience with each and every delivery order,” said Don Ralph, SVP of supply chain and logistics at Staples. “Smart-size packaging is an important example of our commitment to supply chain excellence and sustainability throughout our operations. We’re already hearing positive feedback from satisfied customers across our delivery business.”

“Packsize is thrilled that Staples has adopted our lean packaging system,” said Hanko Kiessner, CEO of Packsize. “This is an inflection point for mainstream adoption of Packsize packaging technology that reduces box inventory, eliminates inefficient use of warehouse space, and minimizes wasted space and dunnage material within the shipped product box.”

Founded in 2002 and headquartered in Salt Lake City, Packsize contends that it is spearheading the corrugate revolution, which reduces the cost and bulk of traditional packaging in a changing landscape where operational efficiency and going green suddenly find themselves hand-in-hand.

Staples has implemented smart-size packaging in several facilities in its nationwide network of delivery fulfillment centers, and will continue the roll-out through 2013.

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Executive SPECS

BY Marianne Wilson

Change — how to make it happen and effectively manage it — topped the agenda at Chain Store Age’s 10th annual Executive SPECS conference. Executives from some of the nation’s leading retail and restaurant chains and suppliers and service providers in store planning, construction and facilities management attended the event, which was held in November at Red Rock Casino, Resort & Spa, Las Vegas.

Executive SPECS is designed as a high-level forum where executives can come together for informal business networking and partnering. Another hallmark of the event is a custom-designed management development program. This year, Peter Sheahan, CEO of Change Labs, led the discussion, with a dynamic presentation that included plenty of interaction and discussion among attendees.

Retailers and suppliers at Executive SPECS also had the opportunity to participate in face-to-face “information exchange” meetings. These meetings allowed the retailers to discuss their needs and goals with individual suppliers in a direct and time-efficient manner.

Beyond the meetings, there was plenty of opportunity for networking and informal discussions over meals and during the breaks.

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