Before stores even opened for the day in Arizona, Build-A-Bear announced early Thursday that it had closed its lines to new guests hoping to take advantage of its "Pay Your Age" promotion.
"Per local authorities, we cannot accept additional Guests at our U.S. Build-A-Bear Workshop locations due to crowd and safety concerns," the company wrote in a statement on its website. "We have closed lines in our U.S. stores. We understand some of our Guests are disappointed and we will reach out directly as soon as possible."
In an expanded statement released shortly after, the company said the response to the promotion was "overwhelming and unprecedented in our 21-year history" and that crowds exceeded expectations.
"We feel it is important to share, based on information available to us the day before the day began, we could not have predicted this," an updated statement said.
Under the promotion, people were able to make their own stuffed animal and the price would be equivalent to their age. So, a 4-year-old would pay $4, a five-year-old pays $5, and so on.
The minimum price would have been $1 and the maximum $29 -- significant savings considering prices could be as high as $75, according to Build-A-Bear's website.
Many guests had to wait in hours-long lines while others were turned away, the company said. Vouchers worth $15 toward a future purchase were given to customers in line.
The company's "Build-A-Bear Bonus Club" members can also receive a voucher by logging in to their account by midnight on July 15. Vouchers must be redeemed by Aug. 31, 2018.
The company expects increased traffic and lines in the days ahead as people redeem their vouchers. They "strongly encourage guests to consider delaying their trip" to the store, the company said in a statement.
Build-A-Bear has four stores in the Valley: Arrowhead Towne Center, Chandler Fashion Center, Scottsdale Fashion Square and San Tan Village. All of them were not scheduled to open until 9 a.m.
Macerich, the company that manages all four of the malls, declined comment and deferred all questions to Build-A-Bear.
Full Build-A-Bear statement (updated)
Build-A-Bear Workshop’s Pay Your Age Day event generated an overwhelming response, resulting in long lines, extensive waits and disappointed Guests. We feel it is important to share that, based on the information available to us before the day began, we could not have predicted this reaction to our Pay Your Age Day event. We understand that many Guests were turned away as, due to safety concerns created by the crowds, authorities in certain locations closed Build-A-Bear stores and, in other locations, we were forced to limit the line. Unfortunately, given these circumstances, we were unable to serve all of our Guests for the Pay Your Age Day event.
In response, we distributed vouchers to Guests, who were present in lines, to be redeemed for a future purchase. We are now making vouchers available to our Build-A-Bear Bonus Club members in the U.S. and Canada who log into their account by midnight on July 15, 2018. Vouchers related to this event will be honored through August 31, 2018.
It is our sincere desire for all of our Guests to enjoy the best Build-A-Bear experience possible. As such, our goal with the voucher extension is to enable us to better flow traffic to the stores over the next several weeks to avoid long lines and wait times as much as possible. Therefore, we strongly encourage Guests to consider delaying their trip to Build-A-Bear, and we appreciate everyone’s understanding and patience in this matter.
Build-A-Bear Workshop takes seriously the privilege of providing our valued Guests with an opportunity to make a furry friend. It is with that spirit that we created our Pay Your Age Day event and the new, year-long Count Your Candles birthday program, where kids 14 and under can “pay their age” for our new Birthday Treat Bear during their birthday month.