Build-A-Bear has told customers to avoid visiting its stores after a “Pay Your Age” promotional event prompted “extreme crowds and safety concerns”.
The toy retailer said there was an “unprecedented” response to the campaign, in which customers pay the age of the child they are accompanying for one of a range of stuffed toys.
The promotions offers a significant discount considering Build-A-Bear’s toys normally cost around £20.
Stores across the UK saw high demand with long queues forming outside shops in Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool.
Meanwhile in Belfast, staff were forced to close the store in the city’s Victoria Square complex yesterday due to “safety concerns” as customers turned up en masse for the “pay your age” deal.
Police were called to the site at 12.40pm but said no offences had been detected.
Customers also took to social media to complain about how they had been advised that they could have to queue for hours.
“The response to our Pay Your Age Day event at all of our UK locations has been overwhelming and unprecedented in our 21-year history,” Build-A-Bear said in a statement.
“The crowds have greatly exceeded our expectations and, per local authorities, queues are at capacity and we cannot accept additional guests due to extreme crowds and safety concerns.
“We understand our guests are disappointed, and we are working to address the situation. We will reach out directly to our valued guests as soon as possible.”
Build-A-Bear added that while it warned on Wednesday it was anticipating long lines and waiting times, it would “make every effort to help as many guests as possible participate in this first-time event”.
Neil Saunders, managing director of analysts GlobalData Retail, said: “The decision to shut stores and end the promotion early was necessary on both safety and operational grounds, but it will damage the brand.
“A lot of parents are now upset that they cannot fulfil promises to their children, and many who made special trips to malls are frustrated that their efforts have come to nothing.
“In our view, Build-A-Bear is going to have to take some action to remedy this, maybe by offering deals and special offers to those affected.
“This could have a future impact on profits, although it will be helpful to sales volumes.”