What to Know
Build-a-Bear Workshop offered a sale for customers to pay their age for any animal in the store
The company said the promotion drew "unprecedented" and "extreme crowds, forcing it to close lines at US and Canadian stores
Social media posts showed workshops filled with customers and lines wrapped around stores and shopping centers
Build-a-Bear Workshop is offering another chance for some customers to pay their age for a stuffable animal after the company was forced to close its lines Thursday at all U.S. and Canadian workshops.
Lines were cut short hours into the promotion as "extreme crowds" filled shopping centers and throngs of people wrapped around stores and buildings.
"We feel it is important to share that, based on the information available to us before the day began, we could not have predicted this reaction to our Pay Your Age Day event," the company said in a statement on its website.
In an effort to help customers consider delaying their trip to a store for the promotion, the company issued vouchers to those in line and to members of its Bonus Club.
"We distributed vouchers to Guests, who were present in lines, to be redeemed for a future purchase," Build-a-Bear said in a statement. "We are now making vouchers available to our Build-A-Bear Bonus Club members in the U.S. and Canada who log into their account by midnight on July 15, 2018. Vouchers related to this event will be honored through August 31, 2018."
The company said it hopes the vouchers will curb "long lines and wait times as much as possible."
The company said the response to the company's first-of-its-kind sale "has been overwhelming and unprecedented in our 21-year history." It added that at the request of local authorities, new customers were not being accepted at stores over safety concerns.
With kids and adults hoping to get a customizable animal for cheap, social media posts showed local workshops stuffed with eager customers and lines spilling into the hallways of malls.
In New York City, parents with small children were still waiting in line at the 34th Street shop at 1:30 p.m., telling NBC4 they had been there since 6:30 a.m. Some said once inside the store they waited hours just to purchase a bear.
One woman yelled "We need somebody" as she confronted staff members over what she said was a lack of monitoring people who were skipping the line.
"It was not worth it," one child said after a long wait.
The Otay Ranch Town Center in Chula Vista, California, posted Build-a-Bear's statement to its Facebook page and customers replied confused and upset.
"The store or the mall should give out vouchers for customers to return at a later date to obtain their bear. Seems a bit unfair, and both entities should have prepared for a response like this when offering this type of promotion," one Facebook user wrote on the post.
Video from NBC7 showed a sprawling line stretching out of the town center's doors and wrapping around the back of the building.
In Illinois, police could be seen responding to the growing crowd at Orland Square Mall, NBC Chicago reported. A flood of people could also be seen at Oakbrook and Woodfield malls. Though the lines were long, NBC 5 reported customers received their discounted bears without incident.
It was not immediately clear if Build-a-Bear planned to reopen lines as they lessened or if any future discounts would be offered.
The sale allowed customers to choose any of the "furry friends" available at local workshops and pay their age number for it. The company said no one would pay more than $29 for a bear on the special date — regardless if the purchaser is in their 30's or older. Build-a-Bear required no identification or proof of age.
Many of the animals are normally in the $20-30 range, with some costing as low as $10 and some as high as $75.
The day-long event was set to serve as a kickoff for a larger, year-round celebration of birthdays in which those 14 and under can receive a "Count Their Candles" invite. Kids can pay their age for a special bear during their birthday month.
The discount was also being offered at U.K. stores. Police said lines formed at a workshop in England "about a mile long," the BBC reported. Several stores closed for the rest of the day due to the crowds.
Parents reported wait times of up to nine hours in at some locations in England, according to DailyMail.com.
"We have overwhelming data that indicates Build-A-Bear is synonymous with childhood, and nearly one-third of our sales are associated with birthdays," said president and chief executive officer of Build-A-Bear-Workshop Sharon Price John.