Build-A-Bear Workshop

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Build-A-Bear Workshop, Inc.
Company typePublic
Russell Microcap Index
FoundedOctober 26, 1997; 26 years ago (1997-10-26)
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
FounderMaxine Clark
HeadquartersSt. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Key people
Sharon Price John (President, CEO)
ProductsStuffed toys
  • Build-A-Dino[1]
  • Beary Fairy Friends
  • Honey Girls
  • Kabu
  • Promise Pets[2]
RevenueDecrease US$358 million (2017)[3]
Number of employees
~5,643 (2011)
DivisionsBuild-A-Bear label (JV)
SubsidiariesBuild-A-Bear Entertainment, LLC

Build-A-Bear Workshop, Inc. is an American retailer headquartered in Saint Louis, Missouri that sells teddy bears, stuffed animals, and characters. During store visits, customers go through an interactive process where the stuffed animal of their choice is assembled and tailored to their own preferences including varying scents, sounds, looks, and outfits.[4] Build-A-Bear Workshop is the largest chain that operates in this style. The company's slogan was "Where Best Friends Are Made" from 1997–2013 when it was changed to "The Most Fun You'll Ever Make."[5] As of April 2019, the company's president/CEO is Sharon Price John.[6]


Build-A-Bear workshop located inside the Mall of America
A Build-A-Bear Workshop at Vaughan Mills in Toronto

In the mid-1990s, Maxine Clark resigned as president of Payless ShoeSource and started a string of retail stores with interactive experiences similar to her childhood of various events held at department stores. She went to toy factories and children's retail stores looking for ideas. She drew up three plans, then presented them to a panel of children. The build-a-bear concept was selected from the three, as the children were excited about it, and the stuffed animals offered a high-profit margin.[5] Doll shops (known as Build-A-Doll) were also a part of the original business plan.[7]

Clark founded Build-A-Bear in 1997.[8] In 1997, Clark also offered to purchase Basic Brown Bears, who has been operating since 1985 in the do-it-yourself stuffed animals space.[9] Adrienne Weiss Co. of Los Angeles was hired to develop the concept. Clark wanted to expand the store into a chain from the beginning, expecting to open three to five stores in 1998, and six to ten stores in 1999, with the goal of having 100 stores within five years.[5] She opened the first store in the Saint Louis Galleria in Richmond Heights, Missouri.[8] The first year's sales at $377,600 were above projections.[5]

With store opening cost of $500,000 to $700,000 and estimated per store sales at $2 million, Clark quickly found capital firms to invest in for the expansions. Kansas City Equity Partners invested to allow her to open its second store in August 1998 in Overland Park, Kansas. Windsor Capital injected $4.5 million into the company, which allowed for two Chicago area stores to open. With the four stores opened in 1998, the chain had $3.3 million in sales.[5]

In 1999, Walnut Capital Partners invested $5 million for expansion, which consisted of opening stores in major cities to bring the chain to 14 stores. The stores were doubling the national mall averages of $350 sales per square foot.[5]

In 1999, the Workshop sent out legal letters with threats of federal lawsuits regarding supposed violations of its trademarks and copyrights to its competitors: Friends 2B Made LLC, Vermont Teddy Bear Co. Inc., and Basic Brown Bears Inc. With Friends 2B Made, the name was similar to Build-A-Bear's slogan "Where best friends are made"; the Workshop demanded that the company stop selling stuffed animals, recall its merchandise, and turn over its customer database and its proceeds. Vermont Teddy Bears had only two out of its three retail locations doing stuffed bears but had closed them down as being too expensive and stepping on its Bear-Gram program. Basic Brown Bears countersued, as the owners believed that Build-A-Bear swiped its information that was under a confidential disclosure agreement when Clark attempted to purchase the company in 1997 and from her visits to their Mall of America location, while Clark asserted that Basic Brown Bears had switched from plastic bags to copy the Workshops' signature cardboard carrier.[9] The company settled with Basic Brown with a payment and a confidentiality agreement that hides any validity to these allegations. Build-A-Bear has 14 other lawsuits to protect 380 patents, trademarks and copyrights.[10]

Public company[edit]

Clark took Build-A-Bear Workshop public in 2004.[11] The company opened its first international franchise in Sheffield, England and licensed Hasbro a home bear-stuffing kit.[10]

A few Build-A-Bear Workshop locations began testing the "make-your-own-doll" concept in early 2004. In November 2004, Clark opened the first Friends 2B Made store with this concept in Robinson near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania followed by a location in Columbus, Ohio on November 19, 2004. Existing mass doll makers had slipping sales, and a number of specialty doll makers entered the market, including eToys' My Twinn and Mattel's American Girl.[7] By October 2006, there were 9 Friends 2B Made stores in operation. By October 1, 2009, they were all either shuttered or converted into expanded Build-A-Bear outlets, with their staff being offered jobs at Bear locations. The Friends 2B Made products display fixtures were removed from about 50 workshop locations.[12]

The Game Factory developed and released a Build-A-Bear Workshop video game for the Nintendo DS platform for Christmas 2007.[13] A Build-A-Bear game for the Nintendo Wii, subtitled A Friend Fur All Seasons, was released in fall 2008.[14] Build-A-Bear released a feature film, available on the iPad through MoPix, in December 2011.[15] From 2011 to 2013, Millennial women began increasing visiting the stores and purchasing accessories, which turn out to be for their pets not prior bear purchases.[16]

In 2008, a virtual game of Build-A-Bear was released where people could explore Bearville and play games online. Players had an inventory with items that they could trade amongst each other. The player could also listen to songs in the game. This game closed in 2015.

Cepia, LLC settled a patent and copyright infringement lawsuit over a color-changing bear against Build-A-Bear in 2013.[17] Also in 2013, founder Maxine Clark retired as CEO,[8] and Sharon Price John took over the position around June.[18][19] The company licensed My Little Pony and the musical group One Direction. With 400 stores, the company plans to trim 60 underperforming stores over two years.[18] In 2015, a lawsuit sought damages for discriminating against blind people and lack of blind-accessible point-of-sale machines in Build-a-Bear shops.[20]

On July 12, 2018, Build-A-Bear held an event in the United Kingdom, United States and Canada where patrons could pay their child's age for a bear.[21] The relatively low price of the stuffed bears for younger children attracted massive numbers of people, overwhelming the franchise's stores as well as many shopping malls in which Build-A-Bear franchises were located. The event prompted a surge in public awareness of the Build-A-Bear brand, according to a subsequent YouGov poll, nearly all of which was negative.[22] Sharon Price John, president and CEO, apologized; the company stated that those who had waited in line would receive vouchers.[23] In November 2017, the company expanded on its pop up shop locations with the opening of Build-A-Bear Bakeshop temporarily for the holidays in the West County Center near a Workshop location.[24]

In August 2018, the company launched Kabu pre-teen lifestyle brand based on Japanese kawaii-style art starting with three characters: Kabu Pawlette (bunny), Kabu Bearnice (bear) and Kabu Catlynn (kitten). A companion game app, Kabu Pop Party Quest, was also created.[2]

During the 2018 holiday season, Build-A-Bear opened six pop-up pilot shops in Walmart stores. The success of the pilot led to the expansion of Build-A-Bear into a further 25 Walmart locations in 2019.[25]

The company launched a streaming radio station in October 2018.[26] Build-A-Bear Workshop teamed up with Warner Music Group's Arts Music and Warner Chappell Music in July 2019 to partner on a Build-A-Bear music label. Patrick Hughes (founder of Foundation Media Partners) and Harvey Russell (CEO) went on board to guide the label.[27][28][29]

With an announcement of having secured a deal with Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions in an August 2019 Q2 earnings report, Build-A-Bear was starting up an in-house production entity, Build-A-Bear Entertainment.[26][30] The first movie is The Honey Girls movie, which comes with songs and music videos on its YouTube channel. Two Christmas movies were produced, the first being Christmas CEO, which was first broadcast on Hallmark Channel on November 26, 2021, and the second being Glisten and the Merry Mission, which comes out in Cinemark theaters on November 3, 2023. PRWS Entertainment Group, a custom entertainment, live events and branded experiences production company, formed a partnership with the company.[26] In second-quarter 2020, the company moved its headquarters from Overland to St. Louis.[31][29]

Product mix[edit]

Beyond the built bears, the store carried other merchandise, "Bearaphenalia," to encourage repeat business. These items included candy, greeting cards, jewelry, stationery, stickers, and t-shirts. Also, the stores had a photo booth that converts the pictures into stickers.[5] For the video game Kinectimals: Now with Bears!, it released four bears with scan tags, consisting of Champ Bear, Colorful Hearts Bear, Endless Hearts Teddy and Peace & Hearts Bear. Fox Business reporting described some outrage from adult-themed bears, available online only, after they were introduced in January 2024, under a push into the "kidulting" trend, where adults would seek out items or experiences that reflect childhood memories.[32][33]


  1. ^ Smith, Joyce (August 13, 2017). "T-Rex Cafe closes, and other updates from the Legends Outlets in KCK". Kansas City Star. Retrieved April 6, 2020.
  2. ^ a b Hobson, Jane (August 3, 2018). "Build-A-Bear targets tweens with new brand". Kidscreen. Retrieved April 6, 2020.
  3. ^ "Income Statement for Build-A-Bear Workshop Inc (BBW) from". Morningstar. Archived from the original on July 13, 2018. Retrieved July 13, 2018.
  4. ^ Trew, James (September 28, 2012). "Build-a-bear's new store concept wants you to choose, love, stuff and fluff with high-tech". Retrieved April 1, 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Build-A-Bear Workshop Inc. History. Retrieved October 26, 2017 – via {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  6. ^ Nicklaus, David (April 22, 2019). "Build-A-Bear CEO gets no bonus, but stock boosts her pay to $2.15 million". Retrieved August 29, 2019.
  7. ^ a b "With holidays approaching, specialty dolls are where the action is". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
  8. ^ a b c Gallo, Carmine. "Build-A-Bear Founder On The Secret To Success: Big Dreams And An Even Bigger Heart". Forbes. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
  9. ^ a b Bigness, Jon (July 6, 1999). "Makers of Toy Bears Tell Rivals To Stuff It". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 7, 2020.
  10. ^ a b "Bear Market". Forbes. March 1, 2004. Retrieved April 7, 2020.
  11. ^ Solomont, E.B. (June 4, 2013). "Here is how much Build-A-Bear's new CEO is making". St. Louis Business Journal. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
  12. ^ "UPDATE 2-Build-A-Bear to close friends 2B made concept". Reuters. September 16, 2008. Retrieved June 6, 2019.
  13. ^ Hatfield, Daemon (February 13, 2007). "Game Factory Building Bears on DS - IGN". Retrieved April 6, 2020.
  14. ^ "Build-A-Bear Workshop: A Friend Fur All Seasons". May 2008. Retrieved January 2, 2020.
  15. ^ "Build-A-Bear Workshop". iTunes. Retrieved August 17, 2018.
  16. ^ Faw, Larissa (February 20, 2013). "The Bizarre Reason Build-A-Bear Workshop Has Become Popular Among Millennial Women". Forbes. Retrieved April 7, 2020.
  17. ^ "Build-A-Bear, Cepia settle patent lawsuit". St. Louis Business Journal. August 27, 2013. Retrieved July 15, 2019.
  18. ^ a b "New Build-A-Bear CEO upbeat on turnaround, future". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. January 19, 2014. Retrieved July 31, 2011.
  19. ^ Kirn, Jacob (March 14, 2019). "Build-A-Bear to close up to 30 stores, reports loss". St.Louis Business Journal. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
  20. ^ Unglesbee, Ben (June 3, 2015). "Lawsuit accuses Build-A-Bear of discriminating against blind people". St. Louis Business Journal. Retrieved July 15, 2019.
  21. ^ "Shut out of Build-a-Bear 'Pay Your Age Day'? Try this birthday month deal instead". USA Today. Retrieved August 17, 2018.
  22. ^ "Fluffed it! The truth about Build-A-Bear's day of mayhem". July 23, 2018.
  23. ^ "Build-A-Bear CEO apologizes for chaotic 'pay your age day' promotion". NBC News. Retrieved July 25, 2019.
  24. ^ Brown, Lisa (October 5, 2017). "Build-A-Bear opening first 'bakeshop' at West County Center". St Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved April 8, 2020.
  25. ^ Fernandez, Henry (June 3, 2019). "Build-A-Bear and Walmart team up, fending off retail apocalypse". FOXBusiness. Retrieved June 6, 2019.
  26. ^ a b c Konczal, Lea (August 30, 2019). "Build-A-Bear targets the big screen with movie production unit, Hallmark Channel movies". St. Louis Business Journal. American City Business Journals. Retrieved September 3, 2019.
  27. ^ Grobar, Matt (September 15, 2022). "Foundation Media Partners Secures Book, Film & Doc Rights To Story Of Las Vegas' Biggest High Roller Terry Watanabe". Deadline. Retrieved October 5, 2022.
  28. ^ Cirisano, Tatiana (July 9, 2019). "Build-A-Bear Workshop Launches New Record Label With Warner Music Group & Warner Chappell". Billboard. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
  29. ^ a b Major, Michael. "Build-a-Bear Workshop Documentary Starts Production At The Company's Headquarters in St. Louis". Retrieved October 5, 2022.
  30. ^ Whyte, Alexandra (August 30, 2019). "Build-A-Bear builds a product". Kidscreen. Brunico Communications. Retrieved September 3, 2019.
  31. ^ Merrilees, Annika (August 9, 2019). "Build-A-Bear to move headquarters to downtown St. Louis in spring". Retrieved April 8, 2020.
  32. ^ Pandolfo, Chris (February 10, 2024). "Build-A-Bear Workshop shocks with 'After Dark' collection of adults-only stuffed animals". FOXBusiness. Retrieved February 12, 2024.
  33. ^ "The rise of "kidulting"". The Economist. ISSN 0013-0613. Retrieved February 12, 2024.

External links[edit]

  • Official website
  • Business data for Build a Bear Workshop, Inc.: