Build-A-Bear Seeks Buyer, Approaches Private-Equity Firms

Build-A-Bear Workshop Inc., the chain of make-your-own stuffed animal stores, is seeking a buyer and has approached private-equity firms, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.

Barclays Capital is advising the company, said two of the people, who declined to be identified because the matter is private. The St. Louis-based retailer had a market value of about $117 million as of yesterday’s close.

Sales at Build-A-Bear, which operates more than 400 stores, peaked at $474.4 million in 2007 before the recession sapped consumer demand for toys. By last year, sales had dropped to $394.4 million. To spur growth, Build-A-Bear is offering its stuffed animal kits at arts-and-crafts chain Michaels Stores Inc. and bookseller Borders Group Inc.

Spokesperson Shannon Lammert of Build-A-Bear declined to comment.

The shares rose $1.95, or 33 percent, to $7.91 at 4 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. Before today, the shares had risen 22 percent this year.

Maxine Clark, who refers to herself as “chief executive bear” on the company’s website, opened the first store in 1997. The company became a staple at U.S. malls and expanded to other continents, including stores in Cape Town, Dubai and Tokyo.

Private-equity firms are venturing back to retail as consumer spending shows signs of recovering. Twenty-six retail and restaurant deals have been announced this year, compared with 21 during the previous year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

To contact the reporters on this story: Lauren Coleman-Lochner in New York at llochner@bloomberg.net; Jason Kelly in New York at Jkelly14@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Robin Ajello at rajello@bloomberg.net

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