Letter to WH Smith

Some WHSmith shops use ‘Girls’ and ‘Boys’ toys signage in store. We wrote to WH Smith to explain why we think they should come down.

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Our letter to WH Smith (sent via email)

Dear Sir / Madam

Let Toys Be Toys is a grassroots consumer group campaigning to end the marketing of children’s toys in a way that is not inclusive to both boys and girls. We’re asking retailers such as yourselves to stop limiting children’s interests by promoting some toys as only suitable for girls, and others only for boys.

This month we are launching our “Toymark” quality approval scheme and we would love to be able to award it to a major retailer. Although WH Smith is not there yet we feel encouraged by much of what we’ve seen at your stores. We would like to enter into discussions with you to see if you would be able to work towards meeting our criteria for such an award.

The Good

We are very pleased to see numerous examples of good practice in WH Smith stores, with toys marketed by theme rather than gender.

The Bad

We were very disappointed when a supporter sent us the attached photo of your Wood Green store with clearly labelled ‘Boys’ and ‘Girls’ signs. This is highly surprising when so many of your stores do well in this area.
We were also surprised to see that although the front page of the toy section of your website (http://www.whsmith.co.uk/GiftsGamesAndToys/Toys.aspx) is excellent, once you browse further you are given the option to “narrow by recipient” which throws up some bizarre choices on what boys and girls ‘should’ like (for example, there are four Lego Star Wars products labelled ‘boys’ and none at all for girls). Of course, no toys are gender-specific and we find these categories extremely confusing.

As toys are essential for children’s development, such outdated categorisations can only serve to limit opportunities for our children’s development.

A rapidly growing groundswell of consumers agrees: the campaign started only eight months ago and our social media likes and follows are now approaching 10,000. We have appeared on BBC television, radio and in print media such as the Independent and Daily Mail, and you’ll find support of the campaign across the internet; if you Google us, you’ll get over 150,000 results.

It is disappointing to see WH Smith persist with gendered marketing, when so many retailers (including Boots, Tesco, The Entertainer and Next) agree that marketing toys by gender is thing of the past and have committed to change.

What next?

We seek a commitment from you to end the practice of sexist toy marketing at WH Smith. We can offer substantial insight to you as a representative of thousands of customers and would be delighted to meet with you to discuss how we could work together.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Let Toys Be Toys

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