Some time ago I wrote about Build-a-Bear Workshop and their focus on the customer experience in their stores. This holiday season they have launched an aggressive TV advertising campaign that I hope is driving sales. It certainly seems to be driving interest and traffic to my original post. Many people seem to be interested in opening a franchise closer to their own home. This seems to be a success indicator as these people have had a good experience or feel they would have a good experience and want to replicate the experience for others.
Is Build-a-Bear Workshop(BABW) ready for massive expansion? I think not. The worst thing they can do is over expand and saturate the market for stuff-it-yourself plush animals. If every mall in America has a BABW it will be unbearable to say the least. Right now with 180 stores domestically their isn't much risk of over saturation but they best not expand too fast. The brand depends on a certain specialness to the experience. It adds to the experience if customers encounter the stores while traveling to tourist destinations. It adds to the souvenir aspect of the product. What they are selling is the experience of making and dressing the bear. The product(the bear) that customers take home is a souvenir to remember the experience. Therefore the experience must be fantastic. After all, if it was just about the plus animals they could be sourced ever cheaper from any number of off shore sources.
Build-a-Bear, keep your experience special. Keep your domestic stores corporate owned and controlled. Focus on creating experiences people will travel a hundred miles or more to enjoy. I continue to see people flying in to visit the American Girl Place store on Michigan avenue in Chicago.
Competition will com from the likes of Bear Mill and others but they are franchising their stores and so may not be able to provide the highest quality of customer experience.
BABW has seen the opportunity to offer similar experiences for older tween girls by offering their new friends 2 be made line of dolls and outfits. A good move for a company that appeals to young children who quickly out grow their offerings.
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