Police were called to a Build-A-Bear store in Belfast to maintain order amid chaotic scenes as parents and children queued for a cut-price offer.
Staff were forced to close the store in the Victoria Square complex due to “safety concerns” as customers turned up en masse to avail themselves of the ‘pay your age’ deal.
The episode unfolded on what is otherwise a very quiet day on the commercial front in Belfast, as many shops close for the Twelfth of July Orange Order commemorations.
But queues stretched long outside the Build-A-Bear store in the morning as adults sought to pay the age of their children in Sterling for stuffed toys that usually retail for much more.
Per local authorities, we cannot accept additional Guests at our locations due to crowd safety concerns. We have closed lines in our stores. We understand some Guests are disappointed and we will reach out directly as soon as possible. https://t.co/aSFfPCcfsG pic.twitter.com/WZJ53tOAEH— Build-A-Bear Workshop (@buildabear) July 12, 2018
Shortly before lunch the police had to be called amid reports of arguments over queue jumping and claims of staff being physically accosted.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland said they attended at around 12.40pm to “maintain order”.
A spokesman added: “No offences have been detected at this time.”
Elizabeth McGrogan, 37, brought her six year old daughter to the event. She said a holiday outing turned to “carnage”.
Ms McGrogan, who is 39 weeks pregnant, had been standing in the queue for three hours when she realised trouble had broken out near the shop door.
“It was mayhem,” she said.
The Belfast woman said a senior staff member was in tears on the phone, with security guards arriving to restore calm, followed soon after by police officers.
“I was annoyed for the staff as they seemed to be very vulnerable and out on a limb with no backup,” she said.
She said her daughter spent the remainder of the day crying following the experience.
“What appeared to be a perfect planned family day for us has ended in carnage,” she said.
A spokeswoman for Build-A-Bear said: “The safety of our guests and employees is our top priority. We are aware of the situation in Belfast and, in the interest of the safety of our employees and our guests, this store has been closed.”
Streams of parents and children continued to arrive at the store through the afternoon only to be disappointed upon finding it closed.
A sign on the window apologised for the inconvenience caused.
- Press Association