by: Tommy Chan
My assistant’s eyes met mine. It was time. From the collection display, I selected a suitable teddy bear shell – a vehicle for my madness. From the nearby bin I plucked out a fabric heart - instilling the attributes of “extremeness” and “buffoonery” into it with my sheer will. I then placed the makeshift organ into the empty shell. Laughing manically, I watched as the machine ritualistically pumped its fluff into the bear, defying nature’s laws as it inflated my creation to life. Finally, driven by insanity that was matched only by my excitement, I looked into the black coals that were my teddy’s eyes. It told me his name was Mr. Bitterman Bertrum Beaglesworth. Unfortunately I lacked the money to buy him a birth certificate.
Build a Bear Workshop (BABW) is a retailer that sells the “create-your-own” stuffed animal experience. The firm’s motto – “where best friends are made” – literally describes its value proposition. BABW offers a unique RVP in that the shopping experience can be more valuable than the actual physical product. The building process of the bear involves playful steps that are designed to magnify the consumer’s building experience and emotional attachment to the stuffed animal, as illustrated above.
In contrast to Adidas’ build-a-shoe program and other experience focused selection projects, BABW has enjoyed success. The mass merchandising concept is used in perfect harmony with BABW’s product. Unlike short-cycled running shoes that are utilitarian in nature, stuffed animals garners emotional attachment and enjoys longevity and hording effects (I know this from experience). BABW has chosen a product that aligns well with a mass customization strategy. A stuffed animal is a personal item that generates value through emotional attachment and is not constraint by functionality. Its long product life-cycle is not an issue as additional units of stuffed animal are often complementary products to the original and do not serve as a replacement.
The retail store’s RVP experience component and the end product create value for different market segments. People can be drawn to this shop simply for the building process, while others for the end product. BABW can successfully reach diverse market segments due to this diversification between its RVP and product. Despite this, BABW’s core RVP serves a niche market, and growth will require an expansion of value creation for other market segments. This may be difficult as it forces BABW to compete where the competition’s RVPs are more suitable.
The experience that BABW offers is not inimitable. Whether this RVP is a source of sustainable competitive advantage that will differentiate BABW from the competition remains to be seen. BABW suffered a share-value decline in 2007. The initial success of this RVP was directly correlated with novelty of this experience, and the inflated performance disappeared with the fad. There is, however, no denying that BABW’s RVP still creates value for these niche segments within the market; BABW had a financially sound 4th quarter in 2008 (a holiday season where other retailers suffered).
· Canadian Website: http://www.buildabear.ca/
· Consumer Testimony: http://www.grandparentsmagazine.net/Articles/BuildABear.htm
· Analyst Article: http://seekingalpha.com/article/123713-build-a-bear-keeps-on-building?source=yahoo