Now kids can customise their teddy bears too

By Shweta Thakur, IANS

New Delhi : Kids can now customise a stuffed toy of their choice by choosing its voice, clothes and name and even get a birth certificate for it – at the US-based Build-A-Bear Workshop that's opened its retail-entertainment store in the capital.

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Children can even lend their voice to the stuffed toy, give it a shower and dress it like their favourite superhero and take it home at a starting price of Rs.595.

"Build-A-Bear Workshop is the only global company that offers an interactive make-your-own stuffed animal retail-entertainment experience," Indranil Chakraborty, chief bear or business head (India) of the firm, told IANS.

"We are not in the business of selling bears … we are selling an experience that one goes through while creating one's own furry friend," he added.

The company, which entered the Indian market in April with two stores in Mumbai, launched its third store Friday at Shoppers Stop, Rajouri Garden. It currently operates over 300 stores in 15 countries.

Getting a customised stuffed animal is a 35-minute procedure. The kid or the 'guest builder' has to first choose an animal amongst 28 options available at the 'Choose Me' section, including bears, turtles, kittens and cows.

The animal gets its voice at the 'Hear Me' section where the kid selects a sound – It can be a single sound like I love you, a dog's bark or a cat's mew.

A staff member called the 'bear builder' then stuffs the toy. But before stitching it, the child inserts an important ingredient – the heart. He or she has to rub a small heart between the hands to make it warm, make a wish and kiss it before putting it inside the bear.

While stitching the bear, a bar code is embedded so that if lost and returned to the store by someone, a tracking system can find the owner.

The stuffed animal is then given a spa and an air bath by the kid at the 'Fluff Me' section. It is later given a personality at the 'Dress Me' section with outfits ranging from undergarments, casuals and nightwear to superhero dresses and accessories.

After naming it, the child also gets its birth certificate, which has details of the owner's date of birth, address and E-mail ID, the stuffed toy's eye and fur colour, weight and height.

Finally at the 'Take Me Home' section the child takes an oath to take care of it. The bear then goes home in a Cub Condo – a small house-shaped box.

Upbeat about the unique experience the company offers to customers, it is positive about the success of this revolutionary concept in the Indian retail industry.

"The response of the customers at the stores in Mumbai has been overwhelming. We are selling approximately 200-300 toys in a week," said Chakraborty.

He revealed that the firm had major expansion plans on the anvil.

"In 2009 we will enter all metros of India and then move on to two tier cities like Chandigarh, Ludhiana, Lucknow and Cochin. By 2010 we plan to come up with 25-30 stores in the country," he said.