A controversial move by Build-A-Bear Workshop has stirred up strong reactions from the public, with many expressing disgust and even some apparent interest in the company’s new “After Dark” collection of adults-only stuffed animals, just in time for Valentine’s Day.
The online exclusive product line, which was released last month, features several plush toys with suggestive themes and attire. These include a monkey dressed as a male stripper and a bear donning a robe straight out of the Playboy Mansion. In a news release, Build-A-Bear stated that the Valentine’s Day gifts were designed to “delight a partner with a playfully romantic gesture” or “induce a blush from your crush over a plush.”
While the company hails from St. Louis, Missouri, its products have clearly reached a wide audience, with the announcement of the “After Dark” collection generating mixed reactions among customers. The news was swiftly met with confusion and, in some cases, disgust on social media platforms. Many found the suggestive stuffed animals inappropriate, with some users even expressing feeling “violently sick” at the sight of them.
According to the company, the “After Dark” collection is restricted to customers aged 18 and over and is targeted towards “kidults” – adults who enjoy indulging in childhood memories. Build-A-Bear cited the rising trend of “kidulting” as a reason for releasing the product line, stating that adults are increasingly seeking out nostalgic gifts to reconnect with their playful youth.
Despite the company’s attempts to explain the reasoning behind its new product line, some users on social media remained unconvinced. London-based marketing strategist Alice Waterman-Hale expressed her distaste for the adult toys on Twitter, questioning whether they were created solely to upset people.
The backlash didn’t deter some customers, however. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Kaleanne Hearn of Aiken, South Carolina, said the outrage on social media only made her more interested in purchasing one of the adults-only stuffed animals. She even went on to order a pink stuffed devil bear with provocative attire.
Hearn’s reaction may be indicative of the controversy’s larger scope, as many commenters on social media expressed similar sentiments. While some found the “After Dark” collection cringeworthy, others simply found it confusing that such toys weren’t intended for children.
CEO Sharon Price John defended the company’s decision, stating that the success of the “After Dark” products showed they were filling a demand for them. She also emphasized that Build-A-Bear is ultimately a “fun brand” and that the stuffed animals should be seen as just that – toys.
In any case, it seems the “After Dark” collection has been a commercial success for Build-A-Bear Workshop, with CEO John noting that the products are selling quickly. Meanwhile, the company stands by its intention to “always be an upstanding, appropriate, guest-facing brand,” despite the controversy surrounding the “After Dark” collection.
It remains to be seen if the “After Dark” stuffed animals will have a lasting place in Build-A-Bear’s product line or if they will remain a one-time experiment. In either case, it’s clear that the release of these adult-only toys has sparked a heated debate among the public and raised questions about how companies navigate the line between kid-friendly and adult-oriented products.