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Maidstone High Street queues as Build-A-Bear launch pay your age day

By Luke May

The Build-A-Bear promotion which caused hours of shopping queues has been closed.

Shoppers in Maidstone and Bluewater were queuing for up to four hours to get inside the store after it launched its first 'pay your age' day.

The popular toy shop let customers pay their age in pounds for bears instead of the usual price - which starts at a £10 minimum.

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See the queue for Build-A-Bear in Maidstone

The deal has resulted in customers flocking to stores in what the retailer has called "an unprecedented response."

In Maidstone, a five minute walk has turned into a four hour wait, with queues stretching as far back as Clinton Cards this morning.

Several parents were seen leaving the queue, but for many the bargain bears seemed worth the wait.

Zoe Matthews had been queuing with her daughter and grandchildren for two hours when she said: "We got here about half 8, the store was open when we got here but we had to start queuing at Fat Face.

Zoe Matthews (right) with daughter Heather Scott holding Arya, 1, and Logan, 3, bottom left. (3034308)
Zoe Matthews (right) with daughter Heather Scott holding Arya, 1, and Logan, 3, bottom left. (3034308)

Mrs Matthews' daughter Heather Scott, who was getting ready to buy her son Logan a Flash superhero bear and a dinosaur bear for young Arya added: "I'm glad we got here when we did."

A rushed off her feet store manager said she was not expecting such a busy morning.

Lauren Arnold had been queuing for an hour and a half when we spoke to her.

She said: "I found out about the sale through e-mail, but a lot of people found out through Facebook.

Shoppers queuing for hours to get inside Build a Bear. (3034304)
Shoppers queuing for hours to get inside Build a Bear. (3034304)

"You have to be a member of the Build a Bear bonus club, I've got to pay £5 for two bears, including one for my daughter whose starting school and has a teddy bear's picnic."

Standard prices for a plush bear start from £10, with character bears going for around £20.

With the queue stretching back towards Jubilee Square, security have had to break the line in half to stop shoppers blocking Week Street.

It had taken mother-of-three Kassey Hudson 15 minutes to get from Card Factory at the back of the queue to O2 in Fremlin Walk.

She said: "I heard about it online, I checked a couple of websites to see if it was real because you see a lot of fake posts, but it was perfect.

"My other two are at school so they're a bit upset they couldn't come, but I've said they can have one for Christmas."

Fremlin Walk staff have been handing out £12 Build a Bear vouchers for anyone willing to leave the queue, but say so far they have not turned anyone away.

Louisa Harris handed out samples from Hotel Chocolat to the crowd (3038363)
Louisa Harris handed out samples from Hotel Chocolat to the crowd (3038363)

Hotel Chocolat seized its opportunity to sell by handing out freebies to the crowd on its doorstep.

Louisa Harris from the store said: "It's been very noisy, as soon as my manager got here at 8.30am it was rammed. The shop hasn't been too busy but its just manic."

But offers haven't stopped would-be shoppers walking away.

Lauren Carter told the KM: "I've got a three-year-old and a one-year-old and I was queuing for more than two hours.

"I took time off to go to Build A Bear but the way they have gone about it is unethical. I don't know how they can expect pre-school children to wait in a queue for that long.

"I had to leave and as a parent I was set up to fail either way because I had told my daughter that she would have to be good for two days to get a unicorn.

It's the end of the line for Maidstone's Build a Bear promotion (3041230)
It's the end of the line for Maidstone's Build a Bear promotion (3041230)

"There are parents in that queue who can't afford those bears and they are being forced to stand hours and hours and they might not get one.

"I'm not angry that I didn't get a unicorn but I am annoyed that I had to disappoint my daughter."

The firm posted an update about the event on its website stating: "Thank you for the unprecedented response over the last 24 hours to our Pay Your Age Day event.

"As a result, we want to let you know that we are anticipating the potential of long lines and wait times. We will make every effort to help as many guests as possible participate in this first-time event."

Meanwhile, in Bluewater, there have been similar queues.

Shop staff closed the queues to fresh customers to avoid disappointment.

Louise Simmons, 35, a carer said: "It is manic here. We have been here for two and a half hours and have just been told we still have another three hours to wait.

"The queues go from Build A Bear to Marks and Spencers and back down to House of Fraser."

Bluewater closed queues to customers just before midday and in Maidstone the queue closed at around 2pm.

Anyone still in the Maidstone queue will still benefit from the sale.

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