Brief - The Hustle

Build-A-Bear is a money-making machine

Written by Ben Berkley | Nov 18, 2023 12:48:12 AM

This was not the stuffing we expected to be talking about during the back half of November.

But Build-A-Bear — known to most as a mall novelty where families create custom stuffed animals of their dreams — has been commanded attention from another big-dreaming crew: its investors.

The company has emerged from a rough pandemic hitting new business heights:

  • Build-A-Bear is coming off the most profitable year ever, registering $468m in revenue.
  • It now has ~500 global locations. Every single one was profitable last year.
  • Those shops drew 50m+ visitors last year — and not by accident either (~80% of visits were planned with Build-A-Bear as the destination).

Its success extends online

The last time we checked in on the company, Build-A-Bear was unsure if it could ever translate the tactile joy of its store experience to online shoppers.

The answer: a resounding yes, with its redesigned website driving 135% digital growth since covid began.

  • Web sales now comprise 15% of Build-A-Bear’s sales, generating $65m in 2022.

Online sales have helped the company reach older audiences that wanted in on the fun, but without the potential embarrassment of being spotted playing with teddy bears at the mall. Teens and adults now generate ~40% of sales.

The next chapter…

…is all about sweet, sweet IP. Build-A-Bear moves a lot of fluff via Star Wars, NBA, NFL, Marvel, DC Comics, and Disney licenses, and now it’s actively building its own character roster, per Retail Dive:

  • Pumpkin Kitty, a beloved $35 plush cat that saw a limited run in 2008, came back to viral hoopla this year, creating chaos with per-customer purchase limits and $300+ resale price tags.
  • This month, Build-A-Bear Entertainment is launching a Christmas movie, “Glisten and the Merry Mission,” with a voice cast that includes Dionne Warwick, Freddie Prinze Jr., and Chevy Chase.

BTW: The company projects it’s sold ~225m stuffed animals since its first store opened outside St. Louis in 1997, but none of them are as funny as this special-edition bear, which depicts singer Jason Mraz for some reason.