(CNN) – The “overwhelming” response to a sale event at Build-A-Bear Workshop prompted the retailer to shut down long lines outside stores across the United States and Canada.
Crowds waited outside stores well before opening time on Thursday. The retailer announced before noon it was cutting off lines and not accepting more customers “due to crowds and safety concerns” from local authorities.
“Based on the information available to us before the day began, we could not have predicted this unprecedented reaction to our Pay Your Age Day event,” Build-A-Bear said.
Build-A-Bear announced its Pay Your Age event earlier this week. Customers who show up to the stores can pay their current age for the popular stuffed animals. On Wednesday, the retailer wrote on its Facebook page that it was “anticipating potential of long lines and wait times.”
Shoppers braving the wait times shared photos and videos of lines snaking down the halls of malls and shopping areas.
Allison Viron, from McMurray, Pennsylvania, got in line outside the Build-A-Bear South Hills Village location in Pittsburgh around 9:15 a.m. to get stuffed animals for her daughters, Caroline and Catharine, ages 1 and 3.
“The line was cut off sometime in the 10 a.m. hour,” Viron said, adding that she was still in line inside the store at 4 p.m., and there were “hundreds of people behind” her.
Alex Sullivan took her 4-year-old daughter Madison to the Westfield Countryside Mall in Clearwater, Florida. They arrived shortly before 8 a.m.
Sullivan said doors opened earlier and they were able to leave the mall — with a stuffed animal that smelled like cotton candy and a happy child — before 1 p.m.
“It was obviously very difficult for [the store] to control the line and the people in it or trying to get in it or around it,” Sullivan said. “However, the staff members inside the store still did an amazing job making the experience special for children making their build-a-bears.”
The store distributed vouchers for customers who waited in line but left without a stuffed animal and will also make the vouchers available to US and Canada Build-A-Bear Bonus Club members who log into their account by Sunday, July 15. The coupons will be honored through August 31, the statement said.
“Our goal with the voucher extension is to enable us to better flow traffic to the stores over the next several weeks to avoid long lines and wait times as much as possible,” the store added in the statement.
Shawn Jackson took one of the coupons being handed out at the Build-A-Bear store at La Plaza Mall in McAllen, Texas.
“I’m all for a good deal, but those lines were insane!” she wrote in an Instagram post.