Toys “R” Us, UK, this week joined a number of other British retailers in supporting the Let Toys Be Toys campaign with plans to stop explicit gender-based marketing. Toys “R” Us Managing Director Roger McLaughlan said, “We will work with the Let Toys Be Toys team to ensure we develop the best plan for our customers.”
Let Toys Be Toys is a consumer campaign organization that is supported mainly by parents who are concerned with how sexist stereotypes affect children. The campaign specifically asks retailers, “to stop limiting children’s interests by promoting some toys as only suitable for girls, and others only for boys.” They sponsor a petition on their website for concerned consumers to speak to retailers.
Member of the group, Megan Perryman, stated, “We’re delighted to be working so closely with a major toy retailer and believe that there is much common ground here. Even in 2013, boys and girls are still growing up being told that certain toys are ‘for’ them, while others are not. This is not only confusing but extremely limiting, as it strongly shapes their ideas about who they are and who they can go on to become. We look forward to seeing Toys “R” Us lead the way to a more inclusive future for boys and girls.”
The retail giant, with corporate headquarters in Wayne, NJ, plans to draft a set of principles applying to in-store signage, adding images of boys and girls playing with the same toys.
Other international franchises of the Toy “R” Us brand have already adopted gender-inclusive approaches or are considering it. Swedish school children complained and prompted the affiliated Top Toy catalog to use photographs of boys and girls in non-traditional roles (below).
Just today, French-based Toys “R” Us stores reported that their Christmas catalog would abstain from dividing toys by gender, as inspired by their UK neighbors.
Other UK retailers— Boots, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, The Entertainer and TK Maxx—have agreed to eliminate signs indicating toys for “girls” or “boys” in stores in support of the campaign. Boots was the first to sign on in May. The Let Toys Be Toys followers went into action against UK Boots retailers when a member posted this photo (below) of gender separated toy aisles. Boots replied to the pressure a few days later saying they were, “taking immediate steps,” to integrate the signage, not having intentionally stereotyped their toys.
The mammoth department store Harrods and some other toy vendors moved toward inclusive marketing without prompting by the campaign. Last summer, Harrods reorganized their toy department by theme, not gender.
What about the US? A website aimed at empowering young girls, A Mighty Girl, has initiated a petition to get US Toys “R” Us stores to change their marketing. In this case, it seems toy manufacturers such as Roominate, GoldieBlox and LEGO are the ones leading the charge to show that girls enjoy building just as much as boys do.