Build A Bear opens flagship in Gold Coast
The children’s retailer Build A Bear has opened a flagship store in the Gold Coast, bringing the national network to 17 stores., a good representation across the country according to the Australian franchisee.
Gavin Port told Inside Franchise Business Executive the optimal number of outlets across the country is between 15 and 20 company-owned stores. The Australian license doesn’t allow for sub-franchising.
“We have an exclusive relationship with Lollipop Playland and have nine locations in a wholesale agreement, they operate mini stores. That relationship will build further,” Port said.
The new flagship store at Soul Boardwalk Cavill Avenue, Gold Coast, is bringing food to the experience.
“Guests can build their bear, come and have a bite to eat. It’s adding dwell time in our brand. We do a lot of parties and now there are opportunities for parents to sit and eat. We believe there is a lot of opportunity there.,” said Port.
If the model is successful it will be rolled out across other outlets.
The current retail footprint is a result of a restructure two years ago. In March 2019 the business went into voluntary administration, a strategic decision to complete a reset on the business and it’s direction. It took just a month and the Deed of Company Arrangement closed out earlier than anticipated, Port said.
“Our guests didn’t see any change. We closed some stores but range and experience and what we provide was no different.”
Port revealed a couple of outlets were opened during the pandemic despite the Covid-challenges.
“Last year Victoria was shut down, that was 25 per cent of our stores. It was a difficult time for everyone. Family and friends couldn’t interact but [our stores] allowed parents to come in and have feel-good moments. It really becomes a destination to fill that emotional space while in a Covid-safe environment.”
While digital improvements were made to the business in 2020 Port emphasises the key to the brand is the in-store experience.
“That’s why the landlords seek our brand, we’re very destinational,” said Port.
A commercial off-site model was established a few years ago and that brings further opportunities for growth.
“We bring the brand to the customer – nursing homes, RSL, malls without a shopfront – and hold Build A Bear sessions in a Covid-safe way’ we can hold those over a period of time.
“That’s a significant growth area for us. We’ve employed a full time business development manager to drive that further.”
Port said growth is about building on the brand’s reputation and consumer trust.
Images: Build A Bear/Facebook