1. ITV Report

‘Extreme crowds’ at Build-A-Bear promotion spark anger and safety fears

Huge crowds built up outside Build-A-Bear in Bury. Credit: The Rock Shopping Centre, Bury

Hundreds of eager shoppers queued up outside Build-A-Bear toy shops up and down the country after a 'Pay Your Age' event sparked "extreme crowds and safety concerns."

The chain was forced to advise customers against visiting its stores on Thursday as the first-time promotion attracted an "unprecedented" response.

The bargain offer gave the chance to pay the age of the child they are accompanying for one of a range of stuffed toys, which can cost in the region of £50 each.

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In a statement, Build-A-Bear said: “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.

“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.”

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Customers who attempted to take advantage of the offer took to social media to report staff advising them that they could have to queue for hours.

And shoppers shared pictures and video of the scenes at a number of shopping centres, where some people had been queuing since the early hours.

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Build-A-Bear warned on Wednesday that it was anticipating long lines and waiting times, adding that it would “make every effort to help as many guests as possible participate in this first-time event”.

The HotUKDeals website posted on Facebook on Thursday morning: “Uh oh … Build a Bear pay your age event is drawing INSANE crowds.

“People are being told NOT to go as at least three store have been forced to closed due to sheer numbers of people turning up and worries for peoples safety!”

The early end to the promotion left many shoppers upset, with the Yorkshire Evening Post reporting that police had been called to the White Rose Centre in Leeds.

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Police were also called to Victoria Square in Belfast, where some people reported members of staff being assaulted and others crying.

In a statement, however, officers said no offences had been found.

Twitter user Katie Leech said her “two disappointed little girls” had been unable to get their bears due to crowd numbers at the Meadowhall centre in Yorkshire.

Another user, John Brophy, took to social media to criticise the firm, suggesting it ought to “think more deeply how you organise things like this in future”, and accusing them of “leaving thousands of children upset”.