Early Learning Centre’s name suggests it aspires to do a bit more than just sell toys, so perhaps it’s not surprising that shoppers have high expectations from them when it comes to labelling and merchandising.
On Twitter they say that “Early Learning Centre toys help children grow into happy, self-confident people”, so it’s great to see them living up to this claim with inclusive photography and toys labelled and categorised by activity. But pink and blue are still being used to reinforce the idea that boys and girls have separate toys.
Read our full open letter to ELC below, and contact them to let them know what you think.
Dear Ms MacKenzie
At Let Toys Be Toys we represent thousands of customers who believe that toys should be marketed in ways that are inclusive to both boys and girls. We are impressed by many of the approaches which Early Learning Centre uses but there are still areas which concern us.
Let Toys Be Toys fully supports the inclusive images on your website and packaging. It is great to see boys and girls playing together, as well as children with ‘non-traditional’ toys such as boys with dolls or girls with cars. As parents ourselves we find these images refreshingly representative of the way children play in real life.
However, our supporters are concerned that your use of colours could be giving messages to children and parents that do not fit with this inclusive image. For example, your ‘action and adventure’ and ‘let’s pretend’ toys are remarkably similar in theme. They both feature imaginative play sets that both boys and girls would enjoy. However, the placement in store (the pictures below are from Edmonton) show large amounts of blue used in the ‘action and adventure’ packaging, and pink in ‘let’s pretend’. These colours have been heavily used in recent years to denote boys and girls, and would be easily recognised by most children to signify that the selections are aimed at different genders.
We also noticed that you frequently offer toys in a choice of two colours. One choice is generally pink which sends the message that there is a ‘boys’ version and a ‘girls’ version of the toy (such as the RockStar Guitar, Art Centre or Racing Car magnetic trio). We do not find this helpful and, again, does not support the inclusive message elsewhere in your stores.
We are pleased your website no longer claims that boys and girls have an inbuilt preference for blue and pink (as of course there is very little evidence for this) but it is a shame that ‘gender’ is still available as a search category under your ‘shop assistant’ feature and, even more disappointingly, is the first listed.
Let Toys Be Toys celebrates retailers who market in an inclusive way, awarding our Toymark to those who pledge to support our aims of marketing toys in an inclusive way. We feel Early Learning Centre is very close to this criteria and urge you to consider the areas for development we have suggested. We would be delighted to discuss this further with you, and can be contacted on the e-mail address above.
Let Toys Be Toys