Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Build-A-Bear Makeover Started at Home Depot; Low-Budget Effort Has Boosted Sales at Redesigned Stores

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Build-A-Bear Makeover Started at Home Depot; Low-Budget Effort Has Boosted Sales at Redesigned Stores

Article excerpt

NEW YORK Build-A-Bear Workshop pulled back the curtain this week to show National Retail Federation convention-goers how it put together its new store design.

The story included, curiously enough, pink foam-core board bought from Home Depot.

Brandon Elliott, Build-A-Bears director of digital ventures, said during a presentation that the company didnt have endless capital to prototype the store, which was unveiled in September at West County Center.

To save time and money, he built models for many of the new bear- making stations out of material that many people use to insulate their homes.

And yes, I would go to meetings for a couple of months where I had a utility knife and a roll of tape, he said. So if we were in the middle of a meeting with operations where they said its too big, I would literally take the knife out and cut the stations down, he said while mimicking the sounds and gesturing with his hands. (The finished products, of course, were made with much more expensive materials.)

The low-budget approach with its focus on the guest experience seems to be paying off so far. The new concept was implemented at six stores last fall, and Elliott said they have seen sales rise by 30 percent or more.

Were finding that its making a big enough difference that were going to be moving forward pretty aggressively with plans of updating our stores, he told the audience. So over the next couple of years, you will see, we will have 40 to 50 locations that will have partial or full new updated experiences that we will be rolling out.

Build-A-Bear Workshop, a mall-based retailer where children can make their own stuffed bears, has more than 400 stores in 16 countries. While its often cited as a model of interactive retail, its sales have slipped and the Overland-based company has lost money in two of the past three years.

The new store design is a linchpin of founder and CEO Maxine Clarks turnaround effort, which also includes closing up to 60 underperforming stores in the next two years. …

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