You may remember we met with Toys R Us in September 2013 when they committed to a more inclusive approach to toy marketing. We’ve certainly seen improvements since then, but we still have some questions over their timescale for change.
We’ve contacted Managing Director Roger McLaughlan by e-mail to find out if they have any updates.
Dear Roger McLaughlan,
It is now coming up to two years since we met to discuss gender stereotyping in Toys R Us UK branches. We were very pleased to meet you and have seen some positive changes from Toys R Us in this time. These include a more inclusive Christmas catalogue in 2013, and no gendered signage in newly opened stores in 2014.
However, we still have a number of concerns.
Firstly, following the Christmas 2013 catalogue we have seen photographs in your catalogues become increasingly, not less, gendered. There are now fewer images showing boys and girls enjoying toys together, and photographs from the 2013 catalogue showing non-stereotypical play (such as boys with dolls) are being used less frequently.
As parents who know that children enjoy a much wider range of toys than generally depicted in children’s marketing, this move backwards is really disappointing.
Secondly, although we are genuinely delighted to see the ‘Girls’ signs missing from your newer stores, we would be interested to have more information on when you will be phasing these out of existing stores. Is there a date for their removal? There are still many stores up and down the UK where parents feel uncomfortable taking their children because of the explicit messages telling them what toys they should play with in relation to their gender.
We continue to be concerned about the use of gender filters on your website and are asking again if you would consider dropping these. You may have recently seen widespread coverage of Amazon dropping these unnecessary filters. Amazon.co.uk has had no gender filters or gender-specific landing pages for some time, and shoppers are clearly able to find the products they wish to buy. In fact, our 2014 survey showed that using gender as a way to categorise toys online is falling out of favour, with a 46% reduction since our campaign began.
Finally, we were interested to be contacted by a customer who has spoken to you about her concerns around gender stereotyping. The initial response she received was “it is not a conscious decision to use one gender rather than the other but merely to show the best graphic of a kid having fun”. This is identical wording to customer service letters sent in 2013.
We were pleased to see that in subsequent correspondence the customer was told “we do have an ongoing dialogue with the Let Toys Be Toys campaign and we are always working towards marketing toys in a more inclusive way” and perhaps that would be a more reassuring initial standard response.
As stated earlier, we found our initial meeting encouraging, and in light of our ongoing dialogue we would be very interested in meeting again for further discussion on these points.
Let Toys Be Toys
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