Understanding the People Who Work at and Patronize Build- A-Bear Workshop

Understanding the People Who Work at and Patronize Build- A-Bear Workshop

CASE STUDY Before becoming an entrepreneur, Maxine Clark worked for large retailers. Although she enjoyed working for large companies she was looking for a change. She wanted to have more fun at work. In contemplating this change, Clark recalls that “early in my career, Stanley Goodman, who was then CEO of May, said something that has stuck with me: ‘Retailing is entertainment, and when custom- ers have fun, they spend more money.’ I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I knew it would involve children, because kids know how to enjoy themselves.”A. Giacob- be, “Bear Market,” FSB: Fortune Small Business 19(9) (November 2009): .A. Giacobbe, “Bear Market,” FSB: Fortune Small Business 19(9) (November 2009): 49.

“As a child, shopping was a magical experience for Maxine Clark. … [I]n 1996 she set out to blaze her own path in retail with the goal of recreating that special feeling from her childhood.”M. Wu, “Making Millions Out of Teddy Bears,” The Wall Street Journal (Online) (May 6 2011), http://online.wsj.com/article/SB100014 24052748703859304576307012046312744.html (ac- cessed June 20, 2011).M. Wu, “Making Millions Out of Teddy Bears,” The Wall Street Journal (Online) (May 6 2011), http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405274 8703859304576307012046312744.html (accessed June 20, 2011). She founded Build-A-Bear Workshop, which is “the only global company that offers an interactive ‘make your own stuffed animal’ retail-entertainment experience.”Anonymous, “Fact Sheet,” Build-A-Bear Workshop Web Site, http://www.buildabear.com/shop- ping/pgf/ourCompanyFactSheet.pdf (accessed June 20, 2011).Anonymous, “Fact Sheet,” Build-A-Bear Workshop Web Site, http://www.buildabear.com/shop- ping/pgf/ourCompanyFactSheet.pdf (accessed June 20, 2011). As of mid-2011, Build-A-Bear operates more than 400 stores worldwide. Company-owned stores are locat- ed in the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and France. Franchise stores are found in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and the Middle East.Anonymous, “Fact Sheet,” Build-A-Bear Workshop Web Site, http://www.buildabear.com/shopping/pgf/our- CompanyFactSheet.pdf (accessed June 20, 2011).Anon- ymous, “Fact Sheet,” Build-A-Bear Workshop Web Site,

http://www.buildabear.com/shopping/pgf/ourCompany- FactSheet.pdf (accessed June 20, 2011).

Although Build-A-Bear Workshop was ‘the brain- child’ of Maxine Clark, she credits the company’s suc- cessful business plan to her godchild, Katie. Caught up in the Beanie Baby craze of the mid-1990s, Clark and her godchild talked about “how it would be ‘cool’ to build your own Beanie Babies”—and a business plan for what would become Build-A-Bear Workshops be- gan emerging.D.M. Amato-McCoy, “Where ‘Everybear’ Knows Your Name,” Chain Store Age 84(8) (August 2008): .D.M. Amato-McCoy, “Where ‘Everybear’ Knows Your Name,” Chain Store Age 84(8) (August 2008): 48.

“Since the retailer opened its first store in a St. Lou- is mall in 1997, skeptics have warned that the concept wouldn’t last.”G. Edwards, “Build-A-Bear Is Stretching at Seams,” The Wall Street Journal (Eastern edition) (April 5, 2006): .G. Edwards, “Build-A-Bear Is Stretch- ing at Seams,” The Wall Street Journal (Eastern edition) (April 5, 2006): B3C. According to Clark, “[a]dults told me my idea wouldn’t work. ‘Who wants to make their own stuffed animals?’ they argued. But every kid said, ‘Where is it? When can I do it?’ “A. Giacobbe, “Bear Market,” FSB: Fortune Small Business 19(9) (Novem- ber 2009): .A. Giacobbe, “Bear Market,” FSB: Fortune Small Business 19(9) (November 2009): 49.

However, the company “keeps defying critics with strong gains as it broadens its geography, customer types and menagerie.”G. Edwards, “Build-A-Bear Is Stretch- ing at Seams,” The Wall Street Journal (Eastern edition) (April 5, 2006): .G. Edwards, “Build-A-Bear Is Stretch- ing at Seams,” The Wall Street Journal (Eastern edition) (April 5, 2006): B3C. Build-A-Bear’s core customer de- mographic is the group known as ‘female tweens’—but the Build-A-Bear product line appeals to a wide range of customers.D.M. Amato-McCoy, “Where ‘Everybear’ Knows Your Name,” Chain Store Age 84(8) (August 2008): .D.M. Amato-McCoy, “Where ‘Everybear’ Knows Your Name,” Chain Store Age 84(8) (August 2008): 48. Locating stores at zoos and ballparks, which is part of the company’s ongoing expansion plan, is intended to enhance the product line’s appeal for boys, who, in mid- 2006, represented only about a quarter of the company’s customers.G. Edwards, “Build-A-Bear Is Stretching

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at Seams,” The Wall Street Journal (Eastern edition) (April 5, 2006): .G. Edwards, “Build-A-Bear Is Stretch- ing at Seams,” The Wall Street Journal (Eastern edition) (April 5, 2006): B3C. Building on the Build-A-Bear success, the company also has launched two additional make-your-own business lines: friends2Bmade for cus- tomers to make dolls, and Build-A-Dino, located in T- Rex cafe restaurants, where customers create their own dinosaurs.Anonymous, “Retails Power 25: The 25 Most Influential People in Retailing,” Chain Store Age, 84(1) (January 2008): ; G. Edwards, “Build-A-Bear Is Stretch- ing at Seams,” The Wall Street Journal (Eastern edition) (April 5, 2006): .Anonymous, “Retails Power 25: The 25 Most Influential People in Retailing,” Chain Store Age, 84(1) (January 2008): 8A; G. Edwards, “Build-A-Bear Is Stretching at Seams,” The Wall Street Journal (Eastern edition) (April 5, 2006): B3C.

So, who is Maxine Clark, the woman behind the Build-A-Bear Workshop success story? Dubbed “the Oprah Winfrey of the retail industry—compassionate, creative and charismatic,” Maxine Clark “is a feisty, sea- soned ex-May Department Stores veteran who doesn’t let one detail get by her.”Anonymous, “Retails Power 25: The 25 Most Influential People in Retailing,” Chain Store Age, 84(1) (January 2008): .Anonymous, “Retails Power 25: The 25 Most Influential People in Retailing,” Chain Store Age, 84(1) (January 2008): 8A. As the found- er and CEO of Build-A-Bear Workshop, Maxine Clark “charmed consumers and wowed Wall Street with a con- cept that set a new template for interactive experiential retailing.”Anonymous, “Retails Power 25: The 25 Most Influential People in Retailing,” Chain Store Age, 84(1) (January 2008): .Anonymous, “Retails Power 25: The 25 Most Influential People in Retailing,” Chain Store Age, 84(1) (January 2008): 8A. Clark’s success has captured the intense interest of others. “In fact, it’s been the inspi- ration for numerous imitators; Clark herself is a majority investor and key driver behind the launch of Ridemakerz, a toy-car customizing experience.”Anonymous, “Retails Power 25: The 25 Most Influential People in Retailing,” Chain Store Age, 84(1) (January 2008): .Anonymous, “Retails Power 25: The 25 Most Influential People in Retailing,” Chain Store Age, 84(1) (January 2008): 8A.

Clark asserts that Build-a-Bear workshop isn’t just selling a physical product; it is selling an emotional ex- perience as well. She backs this assertion up with some powerful and moving examples. “Mothers bring their children [to Build-A-Bear] after the death of a grandpar- ent or a beloved pet, and parents leaving for Iraq or Af- ghanistan record their voices in little sound modules they drop into the bears.”P. Keegan, “CEO Maxine Clark, of Build-A-Bear, Traded in Her Kid-Filled Existence for a

Day in the Orderly Aisles of the Container Store, Do- ing the “Closet Dance” … While Kip Tindell, CCO of the Container Store, Stuffed Monkeys, Lions, and Bears. (Oh, My!) Here’s…,” Fortune 161(2) (February 8, 2010): ( pages).P. Keegan, “CEO Maxine Clark, of Build-A- Bear, Traded in Her Kid-Filled Existence for a Day in the Orderly Aisles of the Container Store, Doing the “Closet Dance” … While Kip Tindell, CCO of the Con- tainer Store, Stuffed Monkeys, Lions, and Bears. (Oh, My!) Here’s…,” Fortune 161(2) (February 8, 2010): 68– 72 (4 pages). An even more tear-jerking example is the case of “two men bring[ing] in the 8-year-old girl they adopted just this morning and whisper [to the Build-A- Bear Associate] that she was abandoned by her mother, a drug-addicted prostitute.”P. Keegan, “CEO Maxine Clark, of Build-A-Bear, Traded in Her Kid-Filled Exis- tence for a Day in the Orderly Aisles of the Container Store, Doing the “Closet Dance”… While Kip Tindell, CCO of the Container Store, Stuffed Monkeys, Lions, and Bears. (Oh, My!) Here’s…,” Fortune 161(2) (Febru- ary 8, 2010): ( pages).P. Keegan, “CEO Maxine Clark, of Build-A-Bear, Traded in Her Kid-Filled Existence for a Day in the Orderly Aisles of the Container Store, Doing the “Closet Dance”… While Kip Tindell, CCO of the Container Store, Stuffed Monkeys, Lions, and Bears. (Oh, My!) Here’s…,” Fortune 161(2) (February 8, 2010): 68–72 (4 pages).

“Clark and her team work hard to find associates that are not only capable, but who also care about pro- viding a great Build-A-Bear experience—whether it’s a happy one or a sad one. ‘A Build-A-Bear associate has to be able to handle the smiles and the tears,’ Clark ex- plained. … We’re a business that stands for memories, and those memories can be both happy and sad. Our greatest success has been finding associates who un- derstand that.”M. Sharkey, “Building an Experience,” Retail Merchandiser 49(1) (January/February 2009): ( pages).M. Sharkey, “Building an Experience,” Retail Merchandiser 49(1) (January/February 2009): 38–43 (5 pages). Clark observes that “[t]he teddy bear has sort of been a quintessential symbol for love, trust, security and cuddliness. But you always want to make it relevant, so if skinny jeans or leggings are popular, our bears can wear that. We also stay up with popular culture.”M. Wu, “Making Millions Out of Teddy Bears,” The Wall Street Journal (Online) (May 6 2011), http://online.wsj.com/ article/SB100014240527487038593045763070120463 12744.html (accessed June 20, 2011).M. Wu, “Making Millions Out of Teddy Bears,” The Wall Street Journal (Online) (May 6 2011), http://online.wsj.com/article/SB 10001424052748703859304576307012046312744.html (accessed June 20, 2011).

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“When customers create toys at Build-a-Bear Work- shop, they make something that is theirs alone. The ex- perience is about self-expression and creativity. At Build- a-Bear it’s all right to act like a kid. That’s appealing to people who are 10 or 60.”A. Giacobbe, “Bear Market,” FSB: Fortune Small Business 19(9) (November 2009): .A. Giacobbe, “Bear Market,” FSB: Fortune Small Busi- ness 19(9) (November 2009): 49.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

1How would you describe Maxine’s Clark’s personality? What implications do her personality characteristics have for her behavior as the CEO of Build-A-Bear?

2What are the desired personality characteristics of Build-A-Bear Associates? How might these personality characteristics influence the associates’ work behaviors?

3Describe the perceptions that Maxine Clark has of Build-A-Bear customers. How have these perceptions influenced Clark’s approach to developing the Build-A-Bear business model?

4Would you enjoy or not enjoy working at Build-A-Bear Workshop? Explain your answer. SOURCE: This case was written by Michael K. McCuddy, The Louis S. and Mary L. Morgal Chair of Christian Business Ethics and Professor of Management, College of Business Administration, Valparaiso University.Michael K. McCuddy, The Louis S. and Mary L. Morgal Chair of Christian Business Ethics and Professor of Management, College of Business Administration, Valparaiso University.

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