Magazine Article | October 22, 2013

Build-A-Bear Workshop Banking On Its Store Of The Future

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By Matt Pillar, editor-in-chief, Integrated Solutions For Retailers

November 2013 Integrated Solutions For Retailers

New store concept merges the digital and physical realms of retail, netting 20 percent comp-store sales improvement in year one.

In the years since the 1997 inception of Build-A-Bear Workshops, the successful retailer’s young customer demographic has experienced incredible transformation. Back then, kids listened to CDs and watched cartoons on cable television. Today, they’re Internet and iPod savvy.

Knowing that digital connectivity was changing the way kids interact with brands and media, a little more than two years ago Build-A-Bear Chief Information and Interactive Officer Dave Finnegan led an effort to reimagine the store experience. “We asked ourselves, if we were launching this company today for the modern child, how would we build the store?”

What followed was a completely reimagined, ground-up restoration of the Build-A-Bear Workshop experience that began not with fiber-optic cable and new servers, but with a store blueprint and the participation of high-ranking executives from Build-ABear Workshop technology partners like Microsoft, Samsung, Infusion, and Epicor Software Corporation. These executives spent time observing real-world shoppers as they navigated the store. Their simple task was to note any point during the store experience where they observed a customer making an emotional connection with the brand. “We didn’t want our initial thinking to be about technology. It’s really important when we create meaningful innovation that we don’t lose sight of what we’re providing in the first place — a magical experience,” says Finnegan.

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