SHARP-eyed Gazette readers may have noticed a special birth notice in last week's Family Notices section.

Barry the Bear is the latest addition to the Newbury Building Society family.

He was born on Saturday and since then he has been attracting plenty of hugs from Festival Place shoppers who have popped by the building society’s Basingstoke branch, at Chelsea House.

Among those enjoying a hug this week was two-year-old Matthew Harber, from Limes Park.

“Everybody loves Barry,” said branch manager Harriette Lane, who explained that the loveable bear is being used to promote a range of initiatives to engage with young families.

“We want to teach children the importance of money in a fun, safe environment,” said Harriette. “Barry the Bear is our new mascot to launch the initiative.”

Although the mutual building society is already family-friendly, Harriette feels Barry will help to get the message across more.

Harriette said: “Banks and building societies can often look quite serious and may not appear very approachable, so this is with a view to break that barrier and get people to come in. You don’t have to buy anything from us – just come on in and have a hug with Barry.”

“We are going to be at various events throughout the summer with Barry, and we will be giving away miniature versions of him.”

Prior to the birth of Barry, the society held a What’s in the box? competition across its 11 branches. The competition in Basingstoke was won by four-year-old Dexter Fowles, from Oakley who won himself a Barry the Bear.