Build-A-Bear shuts down lines amid 'Pay Your Age' day chaos

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NEW YORK (AP) — Build-A-Bear Workshop's "Pay Your Age" promotion proved too popular. The chain known for its customizable teddy bears and other stuffed toys couldn't handle the crowds Thursday, and had to turn shoppers away.

The company wrote in a Facebook post that it closed lines at its stores in Canada and the U.S. due to overwhelming crowds and safety concerns. The offer, which let customers with youngsters in tow buy a bear and pay their current age with a cap at $29, was also available at its United Kingdom stores.

Customers took to social media to complain afterward. Analyst Neil Saunders of GlobalData said in a report that "the decision to shut stores and end the promotion early was necessary on both safety and operational grounds, but it will damage the brand."

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Later Thursday, the company said it distributed vouchers to customers in line that can be redeemed for a purchase through Aug. 31, the chain said. It said the goal is to better control traffic at the stores and prevent long lines and significant wait times.

Below is the full statement from Build-A-Bear:

Build-A-Bear Workshop’s Pay Your Age Day event generated an overwhelming response, resulting in long lines, extensive waits and disappointed Guests. 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 unprecedented reaction to our Pay Your Age Day event. We understand that many Guests were turned away as, due to safety concerns created by the crowds, authorities in certain locations closed Build-A-Bear stores and, in other locations, we were forced to limit the line. Unfortunately, given these circumstances, we were unable to serve all of our Guests for the Pay Your Age Day event, as planned

In response, we distributed vouchers to Guests, who were present in lines, to be redeemed for a future purchase. We are now making vouchers available to our U.S. and Canada Build-A-Bear Bonus Club members, who log into their account by midnight CST on Sunday, July 15, 2018. Vouchers related to this event will be honored through August 31, 2018.

It is our sincere desire for all of our Guests to enjoy the best Build-A-Bear experience possible. As such, our goal with the voucher extension is to enable us to better flow traffic to the stores over the next several weeks to avoid long lines and wait times as much as possible. Therefore, we strongly encourage Guests to consider delaying their next planned trip to Build-A-Bear, and we appreciate everyone’s understanding and patience in this matter.

Build-A-Bear Workshop takes seriously the privilege of providing our valued Guests with an opportunity to make a furry friend. It is with that spirit that we created our Pay Your Age Day event and the new, year-long Count Your Candles birthday program, where kids 14 and under can “pay their age” for our new Birthday Treats bear during their birthday month.

Thank you for your passion and continued support.