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Move over kiddo. Teens and grownups want their own teddy bears

CNN 12/8/2022 Parija Kavilanz

We know young kids love teddy bears and cute cuddly stuffed animals. But Build-A-Bear Workshop says older consumers can’t resist them, either.

The St. Louis-based company is seeing a strong post-pandemic resurgence in demand for its create-your-own soft plush toys, and Build-A-Bear Workshop (BBW) attributes that to shoppers 13 and older.

“40% of our shoppers now are teenagers and adults,” said Sharon Price John, CEO.

The specialty retailer operates more than 400 company-owned and franchised stores and a website. Shoppers can stuff a teddy bear or another furry animal and personalize it with clothes, accessories and their own voice-recorded message.

© Provided by CNN Bild-A-Bear Workshop's "Michael and Dwight" bears from "The Office." - courtesy Build-A-Bear Workshop

The toys range from $14 to more than $30. For Build-A-Bear’s children’s Birthday Treat Bear, you get to pay the age of the child during their birthday month.

The company, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, reported third-quarter sales last week that were up 9.9% versus a year ago. That was its seventh straight quarter of year-over-year sales increases. Much of it was driven by traffic to its stores as consumers indulged in the hands-on bear-building experience.

Among the older shoppers are collectors and gift buyers. The retailer has been pulling them into the brand experience through licensed offerings featuring popular movie and video game characters.

“In terms of older customers, there is a definite strong demand for collectors with key licensed items such as ‘Pokémon’, ‘Star Wars,’ older movie characters from ‘The Nightmare before Christmas’ and video game driven items such as Mario and Luigi,” said Eric Beder, CEO and senior research analyst with Small Cap Consumer Research.

© Provided by CNN Build-A-Bear's plush Spring Green Frog that's having a viral moment. - courtesy Build-A-Bear Workshop

TikTok influencers, said Beder, go to Build-A-Bear and have a “‘stuffing’ party and their creations invariably sell out quickly.” Some examples — the festive Mooey Christmas Cow for the holidays and the the Spring Green Frog that have been popping up all over TikTok.

Teenagers are flocking to the brand for a variety of reasons, including “creating a viral moments with our products on TikTok,” said Price John.

Courting teens and older customers has benefits. “The older customer spends more, is not discount driven and makes multiple purchases…a really nice demographic,” said Beder.

Another enticement for these shoppers — an online store called the Bear Cave that only customers age 18 and up can access.

On offer are tongue-in-cheek plush offerings such as Pawlette the plush bunny holding a bottle of plush pink Rosé, the “Black Panther” bear and bear characters based on “The Office” TV series characters.

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