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Carnage at Build-A-Bear: Parents face 9-hour queues and fears of riots

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 7/12/2018 Amie Gordon

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Video by CBS Sacramento

There are scenes of chaos around the country and fears of 'riots' as thousands of families queue for Build-A-Bear stores' 'Pay Your Age Day' promotion.

Parents are reporting queues of up to nine hours as stocks run out because of an 'unprecedented demand' for the teddy bears, which can sell for up to £50 -- but are on offer today for as little as £1. 

Stores in Telford, Shropshire, Basingstoke, Hampshire and Sheffield were forced to close early and refused people entry amid 'extreme crowds and safety concerns.'

Anthony, one father who was among around 2,000 other people waiting with their children -- some of whom had been taken out of school -- said: 'I don't know what's worse, England losing or queuing for a bear.'

Children can walk away with a new stuffed toy simply by paying their current age in pounds instead of the normal retail price, which starts at around £15. All bears are included in the deal, which led to a huge surge in demand.  

One mother filmed 'utterly insane' queues as hundreds of eager parents waited in line for the bears and said she even feared there could be riots.  

Fiona O'Reilly, 31, from Gateshead, arrived at Newcastle's Metro Centre at at 8.15 am to purchase bears for each of her four children.

She was shocked by the hundreds already queuing before the shop opened at 10 am and feared there could be fights as parents argued in the queues. 

a group of people walking on a city street: Hundreds of people were pictured gathering outside one of the popular stores in The Rock, Bury

Hundreds of people were pictured gathering outside one of the popular stores in The Rock, Bury
© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited

HOW DOES THE PAY YOUR AGE DAY WORK?

Customers were invited to 'pay your age for any bear in the workshop' today.

It is the store's biggest in-store deal ever. 

The offer is available only to Bonus Club members, which is free to join. 

Bears are limited to one per guest (or child), who must be present. 

 Outfits and accessories for the toys are sold separately. 

The minimum price is £1.

Customers do not need to present formal identification or proof of age to participate in the offer but are simply told to a store associate how their child is.

She said: 'It was complete madness. The queues are starting to get so long, and the store only has four staff making the bears, so I reckon people will be waiting all day. There's already people fighting in the queues!'

Fiona paid just over £24 for four bears, which could have cost more than £200 on a normal day. The video she shared to social media racked up 22,000 views in an hour.

Krystyna Anderson spent nearly five hours queueing outside the store in Exeter after arriving at 8.45 am with her 2-year-old son. She told MailOnline people at the back were told their wait would be six hours.

She said: 'There was no concern for children's' safety. It was incredibly poorly organised -- some people had four bears and only one child. People started fighting about queue jumping and security got involved. It was the worst event I've ever been to in my life. 

'Security refused to put barriers around the store despite it being on a busy bus road - so many kids nearly ran out into the road.

'People at the front of the store were offered £8 to spend another day if they left and staff told me they were only having ten min breaks and staying open till 8 pm. 

'For something that involved children, it was ridiculous -- there were so many unhappy, crying children there.

'I think it was just a way to get rid of unwanted stock. Kids started kicking off and there wasn't even any water being handed out when people asked for it -- and you couldn't leave your place in the queue.'

Sophie Lewis told MailOnline: 'I went to the designer outlet village in Swindon this morning and the queue was all around the shopping centre. It’s been absolute carnage. People were only allowed in one at a time. Kids were running riot and parents getting impatient. There was no sign of security at all -- extremely dangerous!'

One mother, who asked not to be named, told MailOnline she burst into tears as she waited for bears in Bracknell, Berkshire with her 16-month-old and 4-year-old. 

She said: 'I got there at 8.50 am and there was a queue of around 30 people in front of us. They opened all four doors at the same time and we were being crushed. It was awful and I was so upset I burst into tears. 

'I had to park the pushchair and take my little girl away from it because it was so frightening. I gave up after 40 minutes after being told our wait was at least two hours despite the fact we were nearly at the front.

'It was so dangerous. My little boy was so scared he just wanted to get out.

'My friend is at Basingstoke and they said she was five hours away and stopped the queue. The manager told us to pay for our bear and go back another time to get it stuffed.'

Chloe Partridge told MailOnline: 'I arrived at the build a bear in Leicester after an hour drive with my two children. 

'They were both very excited. We go there at 9.10 am and the website stated this store didn't open until 9.30. 

'As soon as we joined the queue we got turned away by a worker saying the store was now closing and had been open since 8.30 am, it just wasn't advertised. They had been giving out £12 vouchers but ran out when it got near us. 

'There were parents shouting and kids crying -- it was absolute madness.' 

At one of its biggest stores at the Bullring Centre in Birmingham, the shop announced on Twitter at 10.50 am it had sold out of all stock.

One mother was refused entrance when she tried to join the queue at the Build A Bear store in Meadowhall, Sheffield, despite arriving before the shop opened.

She said: 'We arrived around 9.45 am, about 15 minutes before it was due to open. The line was almost full length of one side of the shopping centre.

'A member of staff told us to go home as we couldn't join the line and it was up to a nine hour wait for people already waiting. My two year old toddler now can't get the bear that he was looking forward to.'

The promotional exercise has also seen many families handed £12 vouchers after missing out on getting a cheap bear.

Martin Knott, who was turned away from the store in Solihull at the Touchwood Centre, tweeted: 'Hundreds of kids now emotionally distressed after they were told they were getting teddies. Thanks for lying for my daughter! This voucher better hold the same offer!'

Mother Rikki said she was refused entrance to the store in Telford. She tweeted: 'I have a very disappointed two-year-old as the Telford store has stopped people joining the queue with a worker saying it's closed for health and safety reasons as queue is too long.'

Mother-of-one one Tilly said she was has been warned of an eight-hour wait at the Build-A-Bear in Warrington, Cheshire.

And Drake Circus Shopping Centre in Plymouth has warned all parents to stay away if they're not already queueing. 

Another mother said: 'We're maybe 100 from the front. I'd say roughly 500 are queuing. I can't see how far back it goes anymore now though as it goes up and down several times and is now bent round the other side of The Rock.'  

And a huge queuing is spiralling inside Manchester Arndale, which Rebecca Robinson has joined with her daughter Sophia.

She said: 'I reckon there's around 1,000 people at least. I got told at Bristol there's over 2,000 people waiting. They've stopped people queuing for now because there are too many.'  

Hundreds of shoppers are queuing outside Build-A-Bear stores at Intu Lakeside in Essex, with some getting there at 8am to make sure they were among the first to get the bargain.

One shopper said: 'It's so busy, the whole of the centre is queueing like a snake back and forth, pushchairs and children everywhere. Lakeside staff said the people at the front of the queue have been there since 8 am.

'I've been in the queue with my son for an hour and a half and we're not even halfway there yet.' 

The wait paid off for three-year-old Rayna. who waited for her mother Laila Jordan at a store in Uxbridge. 

Laila told MailOnline: 'People at the back of the queue were told the wait was around four hours to get in let alone the time it would have taken to get around the shop, it would have been about 5.5 hours from joining the queue to leaving the store. 

'As you could imagine there were screaming children everywhere, tantrums on the floor and general moaning about being hungry and tired. Some parents completely lost it altogether eventually just leaving the queue with a screaming child. 

'They had a truant officer interviewing parents that had brought older children with them in case they’d been taken out of school to come to build a bear, which I’m sure they did as I saw at least 12 children of primary school age in the queue in full uniform.'

WHAT IS BUILD A BEAR AND WHO STARTED IT?

Build-A-Bear is a plush toy retailer known for allowing customers to customise their teddy bear through an interactive process. 

The company was founded on October 26, 1997 by Maxine Clark in St. Louis, Missouri and is currently headquartered in nearby Overland, Missouri. Ms Clark is a member of the Board of Directors of Footlocker, Inc. and Gymboree.

There are more than 400 Build-A-Bear Workshop stores worldwide. 

Build-A-Bear is noted for charitable efforts, including raising money for the World Wildlife Fund.

The company is also notable for being the only major toy store in the United States to survive the ‘retail apocalypse’ after the closure of all Toys ‘R’ Us stores in June 2018.

At the Eastgate Centre in Essex, the queue has been stopped. A spokesman for the store said: 'The queue is now being stopped as the team in Build-A-Bear will not get through anymore people.

'We thank you for your patience with this and would like to remind you of their count the candles promotion that is coming soon.'

Families waiting outside the store in St Stephen's Shopping Centre in Hull have been queuing for more than four hours and queues snaked from outside the store.

Security staff took control and erected barriers to control the queues before refusing to let anyone else join and gave vouchers out to families to get £12 off their next bought item at the store.

Staff said they thought around 500 people were queuing for the bears.

Hull's promotional day was so popular that parents have taken kids out of school to queue. 

Charlotte Williamson, and her son, Leo Williamson, 10 months, had been in the queue for three hours despite moving just three shops in length.

Ivy, two, had been in the queue for two hours with her mother Amy. Amy said: 'I was not expecting it to be that long a queue. When we got here we were only a few shops down and it moved very slowly. 

'I thought they would stuff it and go 'there is your bear' but they are still doing all the little touches. If they carry on doing that they won't get through everyone.' 

The entire collection of furry friends is up for grabs, including the popular licensed characters such as Star Wars, Pokemon, My Little Pony, Super Mario, Paw Patrol, Marvel, Shopkins, Disney and more. 

A spokesman for the Build-A-Bear Workshop said: 'The response to our Pay Your Age Day event at all of our UK locations has been overwhelming and unprecedented in our 21-year history, and the safety of our guests and associates is our top priority.

'The crowds have greatly exceeded our expectations and, per local authorities, queues are at capacity and we cannot accept additional guests due to extreme crowds and safety concerns.

'We understand our guests are disappointed, and we are working to address the situation. We will reach out directly to our valued guests as soon as possible.' 

Have you been stuck in the queues? Email amie.gordon@mailonline.co.uk 

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