Fountain in front of shops at Easton Town Center in Columbus, OH

Build-A-Bear opens Next Generation shop at Easton

June 21st, 2013

Dan Eaton, Columbus Business First
June 21, 2013

Just as manufacturing floors worldwide are becoming more high-tech, so too is the kid-friendly teddy bear production of Build-A-Bear Workshop Inc.

The St. Louis-based retailer reopened its Easton Town Center store Friday, which relocated from its original site in the Easton Station building to the new kid-centric Fenlon Square area, across from the new American Girl store.

But the new store isn’t the store of old. It’s the company’s next generation shop – only the 10th in the 400-plus store chain – with new technological bells and whistles to make the bear building experience all the more interactive.

“A couple of years ago, we took a step back,” Dave Finnegan, chief interactive and information bear, told me. “We’ve been in interactive retailing since 1997. What if we started again for a digital age? How would we build that store?”

The company opened its first next generation store in September in its home market and though the sample size is small, comparable store sales at its handful of new designs are up between 20 percent and 30 percent.

New features include the Love Me station, where kids can select specific personality traits for their bear through a touch screen; a Hear Me station, where a sound chip gets loaded with one of up to 75 sounds from animal noises to popular music; and the Fluff Me station, which is a digital bathtub where kids can “wash” their bears.
“It’s been amazingly well received,” he said. “Kids get it.”

For parents, the barcode on the bear tracks all the features added to the bears and automatically rings up points to loyal customer accounts.

Build-A-Bear (NYSE:BBW) was founded in 1997.

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