Tween queen Justice to launch line of apparel, merchandise

Build-A-Bear Workshop has brokered a licensing deal with Nickelodeon tween queen Victoria Justice to launch a line of apparel and merchandise.

Pairing up with the star of “Victorious,” “Zoey 101″ and TV movie “The Boy Who Cried Werewolf” is the latest entertainment tie-in for the retailer as it seeks out properties that can help lure young consumers and their families into the company’s plush factories.

As part of the deal, Justice designed a bear-sized T-shirt that Build-A-Bear will start selling in its stores and on its website in December, followed by a dress early next year; she will eventually design a stuffed animal. Justice will also offer up fashion picks on the company’s Facebook page and encourage customers to take part in charitable causes.

Build-A-Bear is providing Hollywood with an increasingly valuable outlet to hype its wares, with the Mouse House having turned to the company to promote Disney’s princesses line, “Hannah Montana,” “Toy Story” and Jonas Brothers franchises, while Fox marketed its “Alvin and the Chipmunks” films and DVDs, and Warner Bros. launched a “Happy Feet” plushie and DVD promo after the toon caught on with moviegoers. The Justice deal, brokered by United Entertainment Group, comes as Nickelodeon’s current “iCarly” product pact with Build-A-Bear wraps up at the end of the year.

The company pursued the deals because they “mean something to our customers,” said Teresa Kroll, chief entertainment bear for Build-A-Bear-Workshop.

Build-A-Bear was particularly attracted to Justice because of her popularity with tween girls, who represent a large portion of its customer base and fueled the nearly $400 million the company earned last year. “Because she’s relevant to tweens, she quickly became relevant to us,” Kroll said.

Although Build-A-Bear’s licensed biz is growing with a larger presence at its 400 mostly mall-based stores worldwide, it still reps only 15% of the product offered, the company said. It typically has some 30 different stuffed animals for sale, priced at $10-$25, which can be customized with different clothing and accessories.

Marketers have been attracted to the retailer’s family-oriented consumers, as well as the fact that customers spend, on average, 45 minutes per visit accessorizing their plush animals, making those customers a captive audience for whatever’s being promoted on the shelves.

That includes Build-A-Bear’s move into producing its own entertainment projects, like last year’s animated “Holly and Hal Moose: Our Uplifting Christmas Adventure,” which ABC Family picked up and aired over the Thanksgiving holiday as a one-hour special.

The St. Louis-based retailer also operates the online virtual world Build-A-Bearville, which partners have used to promote new TV shows, movies and DVDs.

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