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GROVEPORT, OH-Central Ohio will become a hub for teddy bears and other stuffed animals when Build-A-Bear Workshop opens a 350,000-sf distribution center here that will give the do-it-yourself stuffed animal retailer a central distribution point for its 200 US and Canadian stores.

The $24-million facility, which opens in September at Groveport Commerce Center near Rickenbacker International Airport, will replace the firm’s other distribution sites, which are operated by third parties. The center, which will also be used to distribute Build-A-Bear’s toys and dolls over the Internet, is expected to create 100 jobs in the suburban Columbus, OH area, the company said.

The St. Louis-based retailer, which will continue to use other distribution centers in Los Angeles and Toronto, said the new facility will help it reduce operating costs and improve efficiency to help better manage its inventory. An existing St. Louis center will become a regional distribution point for nearby stores.

“We believe our new, centrally located state-of-the-art, company-owned distribution facility will improve inventory control and management, realize greater efficiencies, and reduce operating costs,” Barry Erdos, president and chief operating officer, said in a statement unveiling the firm’s plans.

The company, which operates Build-A-Bear Workshops and Friends 2B Made, where customers can build their own stuffed animals and dolls, announced last month that it would undertake a major expansion effort during the next five to seven years that could put 350 toy-building stores on the map internationally.

Recently inked franchising agreements will bring the retailer’s bear and doll building concept to 12 foreign countries, where it currently operates 20 franchised stores, the firm said. Plans also call for an expansion of its US and Canadian outlets from 200 to 350 stores. Additionally, the retailer has signed licensing agreements to put more than 40 of its branded products on store shelves by this spring.

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