What started out as an unmissable bargain for parents with small children across the UK, US and Canada, quickly escalated into turmoil when Build-A-Bear’s latest product promotion received an unprecedented response.

US company Build-A-Bear Workshop has made headlines over the last couple of days, and it’s all because of its ‘Pay your age’ promotion. The simple offer gave parents with young children the chance to take part in their infamous workshop, usually priced at around £20 per bear, and pay only the equivalent of their child’s age in GBP (e.g. A child of 3 = £3).

What Build-A-Bear didn’t consider, however, was just how popular this promotion would be. In the UK alone, consumer high street spending is readily depleting as many households struggle with the rising cost of living. So of course parents are going to jump at the chance to treat their children for a fraction of the cost!

While it was great to see shopping centres and malls packed full of people, the sad truth of the matter is that the problems caused by such a mass promotion seriously outweigh the benefits.

What effect has the promo had on the Build-A-Bear brand?

While the uplift in footfall to the high street seemed positive to begin with, the situation rapidly got out of hand. People began queuing as early as 6am, resulting in mile long queues forming in some areas of the UK. Police in Leeds helped to calm disgruntled shoppers, while in Belfast staff were forced to close the store by midday due to ‘safety concerns’.

Customers on scene praised the staff for their attempts at dealing with and managing the crowds. But the lack of preparation on the company’s part led thousands of disappointed shoppers to turn to social media to vent their frustrations. Criticisms for the company include terrible organisation and a distinct lack of consideration for the impact on those refused entry.

Neil Saunders, managing director of Global Data Retail said: “The decision to shut stores and end the promotion early was necessary on both safety and operational grounds, but it will damage the brand.” Future profits may dip as a result of yesterday’s events, although it’s too early to assess the full extent of this.

On the flip side, however, it’s likely that yesterday’s events will help with sales volumes. It’s also worth noting that the company has managed to demonstrate something pretty significant here. Build-A-Bear has demonstrated that the concept is still both relevant and popular, and it shows how far people will go to get their hands on a good deal. You have to applaud the ambition to drive value and more excitement to the customer base. Times are hard on the high street and brands need to stand out with interesting offers that capture hearts and minds.

You might be interested to know the deal’s actually available all year round…