The placed was packed. I was at the Bellevue Square Mall - Washington State. This is an upscale mall, and while the economy is down in this area - it is not nearly as bad as many other places around the country.
There was a line all the way to the door with parents holding empty bears waiting to get stuffed. They were lined up at the cash register too. The biggest problem I saw was that they only had 2 of the 3 stuffing machines operating. Had they had all 3 running it would have been a better experience for customers, and some who walked in and were overwhelmed by the line would have stayed and purchased a bear and maybe some accessories.
I was happy to see that not ALL the customers were little kids 6 and under. There were some teenage girls buying, and a few adults.
I believe they should consider having some of bears already built and ready to go. Adults buying for a child don't want to go through all the experiece stuff. They would be happy to buy the bear in a express line and get the heck out of there.
BBW was one of the busiest stores in the mall. Apple store was booming. Banana Republic was doing a brisk businenss with a very aggressive sale. The anchors were crowded. McDonalds literally had a line out the door.
I felt good about my investment in BBW, I feel like when the economy comes back the concept will survive. There will always be a new batch of kids who enter the age where this experience is really fun, and they will collect a bunch of bears just like my kids did.
That reminds me - my son graduated to Legos as his toy passion now. They have a Lego specialty store at the Bellevue mall here. That place was totally packed and cash register lines were slammed.
Anybody out there know if Oprah owned stock in this company?
If so, that would have been a sweet move, bring the Build a Bear Lady on the show, then sell the stock.
Trip- as for the concept, the concept is good if you aren't interested in making much money.
As a Bay Area native, I watched this concept work at Basic Brown Bears in San Francisco since I was a kid.
The difference is they had a factory to tour. Remeber factories, that's where things used to be made. Factories still exist, just not in this country.
You are right about the mall rents being a real stinker though.
The other crux of this business is the concept of entertainment retail. Retail is retail, you have to sell stuff, but now we've added the expense of the entertainment.
going to the mall on a random Tuesday morning is like going to the theater or ski resort or any other business that relies on making money when people are off work. An empty BBW store at that time means nothing more than an empty Radio Shack or any other retails store. There is no logic in that statement at all.
As far as the factory comments and retail as entertainment. The production of the bear inside the store keeps inventory much lower, it is just in time final production. Sure they have to stock some inventory, but the storage costs and costs on the books is much lower.
Anyone who does not think that malls and entertainment are not inextricably linked is either from another planet or just doesn't get it at all. Malls are now based on experience, it is where people go for liesure time. When parents and kids have had enough TV, Internet and video games and need to get out of the house for "something to do" they go to the mall. You may not like that in our society, but it is a truth. Talk to some teenagers and ask them where they like to go hang out. Talk to a mom with young kids - the mall is where they go. All this BS of the mall is dead is idiotic. Walmart, Costco and the other big box guys is where you go and do a transaction. Nobody wants to hang out there and have fun. Certainly nobody wants to have a birthday party there.
Sales at malls are down because too many mall retailers got greedy during the good times with over priced products that consumers can get at costco and TJ Max for half the price.
BBW has a reasonably priced product, with some fun mixed in for kids. The stores are clean, well designed and attractive. They cater to their customers.
These guys are going to be around for a while, Oprah or not. The Beef farmers survived her assult on hamburgers - i think BBW can survive if she says nothing.
I would worry more about the luxury and high end clothing stores in the mall before I worry about BBW going down.
If you believe the mall is dead however, of course you are right that BBW and everything else in the mall goes with it.
I would argue the mall is just continuing its evolution to more of an entertainment and liesure space, and it is likely that this will continue to evolve more and more over the years.
So BBW was jammed on the first Saturday after Christmas when kids are out of school and parents are off work. Are you sure they weren't returning things?
Since this stock IPO'd, I've been begging people to scout those stores on weekday mornings rather than on weekends. Either way BBW is paying monstrous rents on those choice locations.
Malls are in dire shape. And few BBW stores could survive outside a mall. Their stores will look even less trendy when the shops on either side are boarded up.
By the way I heard virtually nothing about BBW on TV during the Christmas toy shopping season. The fad is over... long over. Oprah and the press have moved on.
I usually check mall stores out weekday afternoons. Sure enough, BBW is usually the busiest one around.
Get over this idee fixe about a fad that ended. There was NEVER a bear-building fad among kids. Plush animals are a long-term toy interest. BBW has a nice take on serving it.
What's gone wrong? Investors focus too much on same-store sales, a useful metric but only one of many. The company spent too much on the NYC flagship store. They made some boneheaded supply decisions that turned opportunities into scowling matches with customers. They took forever to figure out what to do about boys (mostly forget about them) and about broadening the age-range among girls (ditto).
The merchandising issues seem to be understood better now. More old stores will dilute the effect of new-store-pop on comps, and illustrate the virtues of metrics other than SSS. While broadening the market would have been nice, at least giving up on it allows smaller, less costly stores going forward. And at least the NYC flagship is a mistake that's unlikely to be repeated.
Well, trip, those build a bear boxes leaving the store were either empty or full.
Visit a store on Tuesday morning? Why? It will be as busy as Claire's, and Claire's made me a lot of money before it was sold.
My mall has a new storefront for almost every one who has left this year. Most are expensive brands coming in. "A" property will always be in demand and have new stores.
With Libby Lu closing BBW will continue on with even a few more customers and birthday parties.