Before Thanksgiving, Build-A-Bear Workshop is opening permanent shops inside the new flagship FAO Schwarz store in New York City and at four Great Wolf Lodge Resorts. The retailer also plans to open 10 seasonal pop-up shops at Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's locations, according to a press release emailed to Retail Dive.
The FAO Schwarz concession will feature attractions and New York-themed accessories exclusive to the retailer, the company also said. A giant Build-A-Bear rocket ship will stand in the center of the staircase between the toy store's first and second floors, with an animatronic construction bear and two astronaut bears that float around the rocket and provide a view from the second-story overlook.
The tie-up with Great Wolf Lodge is similarly positioned at tourist- and entertainment-centric locations, the company said. The effort with Bass Pro and the expansion to the Cabela's stores the outdoor retailer now owns continues what Build-A-Bear called a successful partnership first launched last year.
Build-A-Bear has struggled in recent years, and its pay-your-age promotion this summer was something of a debacle. Its wares aren't among the "hot toys" of the season this year. But they're perennials, and the brand's experience-based toy-building workshop approach is well positioned to resonate with shoppers, something that's especially true at the holidays, according to Marissa DiBartolo, editor-in-chief of The Toy Insider trade magazine.
"Kids can come in, make their own plush toy, and carry it with them for years to come. The plush category is a classic, evergreen toy category," she told Retail Dive in an email, noting that the plush category was up 8% last year, according to the NPD Group, and is likely to be up again this year. "While the entire plush category is not necessarily a hot toy trend, it's one of those things kids will always want and never be disappointed with. You can't go wrong with an adorable furry friend as a gift."
The concession at FAO Schwarz, which has been given new life by owner ThreeSixty Brands and has recently returned to New York, is "a match made in heaven," according to DiBartolo . "Kids can come and play and enjoy themselves with or without buying anything," she said. "[B]ut being able to come and visit the store and make your own furry friend to take home, complete with New York themed accessories? That's amazing — and it's a purchase parents can feel good about because it will bring back fond memories of a trip to New York, doing double duty as a great companion and a souvenir."
The tie-up similarly gives parents a way to keep kids happy if they're vacationing at Great Wolf Lodges, she said, calling the move "smart."
Build-A-Bear Workshop does offer holiday-themed options for kids, like its Merry Mission collection, which includes special edition reindeer, moose, bunnies and unicorns, and the experience can be its own holiday tradition, she also said. "Going to Build-A-Bear Workshop to create a special holiday-themed friend is a really unique and fun experience for kids, and of course they can love their furry friend all year long," she said.