Archive for December, 2012


December 31, 2012

The new year is always a time for looking forward. A time for introspection. What will the new year bring? What did we learn in the year just ended? What do we hope for ourselves and the world we live in? How do we meld our work with our personal values, keep life in perspective and build a legacy for the future?

In 2012 Build-A-Bear Workshop celebrated our 15th birthday–well over 100 million stuffed animals sold and $4 billion in revenues since our first store opened in St. Louis, MO in the Fall of 1997. Hard to believe when you think the idea was born on a shopping trip in a local toy store when a 10 year old girl–said, “we can make these!” Boy was Katie right. 400+ stores worldwide have proven that a hug is understood in any language and to me that is the most important lesson.

What would the world be like if teddy bears were in charge? Would our congress and our senators (imagine teddy bears of all sizes, shapes and colors) be struggling to reach a compromise for the sake of the country? I think not–they would listen to each other and agree to a mutual understanding and then hug. That is what we need right now. Howard Schultz CEO of Starbucks asks us all to “Come Together” and has even created a conversation on Twitter at #cometogether. I AGREE!! What kind of company would Starbucks or Build-A-Bear Workshop be if its leaders and store teams could not agree on the products or the service they offered? Would we even be a brand that people loved if our associates didn’t support the companies’ goals and “come together” to reach our objectives? No way. That is what makes great companies and enduring brands — leaders have a vision that the teams can support and in fact make even larger by working together, by as Howard says, coming together. At Build-A-Bear Workshop we call it our magic formula : 1+1=10! It is about colla-BEAR-ation, teamwork at it’s highest, for the benefit of all stakeholders.

This year at Build-A-Bear Workshop we launched our newly imagined store design. While Build-A-Bear introduces new products every few weeks, we hadn’t really changed our store design markedly in 15 years. It was time! 10 year old kids today have all kinds of technology that they engage with that wasn’t even available 5 years ago, let alone 15 years ago. How could we use their love of technology and game play and combine it with their love of stuffed animals and the heart that makes our furry friends so extra special? Two years in the making, our newest store design is an example of the highest level of colla-BEAR-ation. From our team of Cub Advisors (our kid experts), their Moms, our store and IT design teams inside and outside the company we created a store with more stuff, more fluff and much more heart. These 6 initial stores have lived up to every expectation and exceeded many. We are already working on our expansion plans in 2013 with our landlords, who as our partners, have also been part of the colla-BEAR-ation team.

I am looking forward to 2013. Build-A-Bear Workshop has exceeded my wildest expectations. It is capable of many more years even better than the last 15. Like every year it will have its changes and challenges–that is part of growth and building a brand for generations to hug. At Build-A-Bear Workshop we like to say it takes a village to raise a bear and we are very thankful to have such a big village–our Guests and our Associates always willing to “Come Together” for a common purpose–to bring smiles to kids 3-103 everyday.

A BEARY happy and healthy new year to all.



December 22, 2012

Have a BEARY Merry

It sounds trite to say this but it still amazes me how fast the year goes. I used to think this was just about being in retail—no sooner is one holiday season over and we have started planning the next. One good by product of that is that you are almost always in the holiday spirit!

This year marks the 16th holiday season for our company and we have come a long way from our first store opening at the Saint Louis Galleria in October, 1997. In those days I signed every single birth certificate, hand wrote every gift certificate and helped dress tons of bears as Guests brought their kids and families to our store to celebrate our reason for being—to make kids smile! It wasn’t that we made kids smile everyday that was so unique, but where we did it—the mall, and how we did it– we engaged with our Guests young and old. They had fun because we had fun and vice versa.

We constantly launch new products (we are known for our cuteness)  but we hadn’t more than tweaked our experience in 15 years. Armed with lots of data and Guest input this year we launched a newly imagined store design. Over two years in the ideation and testing process, all 6 of these first new stores are re-awakening the fun of making your own stuffed animal and has exceeded our expectations.

When I created Build-A-Bear Workshop I wanted it to be all the things and more that I loved about shopping with my Mom and sister when I was a child mixed with a little Disneyesque magic and Willy Wonka wonder. It worked and today 16 holiday seasons later we have sold well over 100 million stuffed animals and done over $4 billion in revenue and made zillions of children and their families smile. None of us could have imagined in 1997 the impact of the internet, mobile phones or apps for that matter. Today, our app and our newly imagined store makes Build-A-Bear Workshop even more relevant for an entirely new generation of kids.

At Build-A-Bear Workshop we celebrate children and the heart of a child that is inside all of us. This last week has been devastating for us as many of the children at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT are our Guests. The world mourns for these innocent children and their beloved teachers. Our staff has helped celebrate birthdays and milestones with many of these children .  I am told a teacher at Sandy Hook uses our bear in her classroom to teach character and responsibility.  This past week we helped in the grieving process as people came in to our stores with their children to help ease the pain or just to find something fun to do—a new friend to hug when the world seems to be getting out of control. It is what we do. It is what we have been doing for 15 years. It is still our reason for being—plain and simple, to make kids smile when they need it the most. And frankly, lets be honest, it helps us too. Over 500 bears were made and delivered to Sandy Hook for every child –all packaged with TLC and the hope that our furry friends be there to listen to their thoughts and hug away their tears.

At Build-A-Bear Workshop from the first animals we made in 1997 to everyone made since then, we consider it a privilege to be part of what makes the world a better place—encouraging our children to be kids. To laugh and cry and share and hug. I have always believed that the more kids have a teddy bear as a child the less violence we will see. Teddy Bears and their soft cuddly friends teach us so many lessons but the most important is the value of a hug. It is universal. Our bears are proud to be called into duty and doing just what they were meant to do—HUG.  How lucky we are to be part of the solution and not the problem. That is why whenever a child needs a hug, we will always be first in line. YOU CAN COUNT ON IT!

This holiday season let’s take some extra special time to hug someone we love, to say I am glad you are part of my world, I am here for you. Kindness matters.  Hugs make the world BEAR-able.

Happy holidays.

Founder & Chief Executive Bear