In 2014 we’ve concentrated our efforts on gendered books and are starting to look at how we tackle the manufacturers themselves. So have the retailers stuck to their promises in the meantime?
Half the stores we visited in our initial survey had explicitly signposted toys by gender, a quarter mentioned gender on ‘own-brand’ toys, and most of them used pink/blue colour coding in some way.
By the end of 2013 however, the landscape of toy shopping had started to change. Across our first year of campaigning, there was a 60% drop in explicit gender labels (on shop shelves or ‘own-brand’ toys) and thirteen major retailers had agreed to make imminent changes.
Here’s how they’re doing now:
The big two – Sainsbury’s and Tesco – both promised to remove ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ signs from their toy shelves and this has happened in the majority of stores. When we let them know about any that have slipped through the net, they act quickly to have them removed. However, both stores do stock books with gendered labels (eg ‘Stories for boys’) which we feel goes against their new approach.
Morrisons have been promising for a while to take down their gendered signs. Some stores now have the words ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ removed, but toys are clearly shelved separately and are signposted with a blue sign with a racing car or a pink sign with a tiara!
Asda occasionally uses ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ signage and has never responded to any of our correspondence.
Chain toy shops
We met with The Entertainer in June 2013 and they agreed to remove explicit ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ signage. New stores also have a picture of a boy and a girl in every aisle. However, there remain some concerns about the use of pink and blue colour-coding, in particular pink carpeting near the dolls section.
We also met with Toys R Us in August 2013. They made two main commitments to us on that day:
- To have a more inclusive Christmas catalogue. The catalogue was certainly an improvement on previous years, with many pictures of girls and boys playing together or playing with toys that might traditionally be associated with the other gender. However, more recent catalogues appear to be less inclusive.
- To phase out explicit gender references on signage over time. We’re not aware of any changes in-store yet
The Early Learning Centre demonstrates a curious mix of a very inclusive website (showing boys with dolls and girls with cars for example) and a heavy use of pink and blue instore. Pink and blue coding is used on packaging, in how toys are grouped, and there are pink or blue versions of the toys themselves. Despite multiple letters, e-mails and social media contact, we are still waiting for a response.
Both Fenwick and Debenhams have removed gendered toy signage and have replaced them with colourful, inclusive new signs.
- Boots were the first shop to agree to remove ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ toy signs and (with just one exception so far) appear to have stuck to this commitment.
- Marks and Spencer have removed explicit reference to boys and girls on their toy packaging, and do not appear to use gendered signs instore any longer. They do sell some gendered books however.
- Hobbycraft have also removed gendered signs for a more inclusive marketing approach.
- TK Maxx removed gendered signs swiftly (although we did find some still up in their Leyton store) and they stock books labelled explicitly for boys or girls.
- Wilkinson have removed gendered signs from toy aisles and from the toys themselves.
- Next have also stopped labelling their toys ‘for boys’.
- Center Parcs have now removed signs saying ‘Just Boys’ and ‘Just Girls’ from their toyshops.
- WH Smith occasionally use signs saying ‘boys toys’ and ‘girls toys’ instore, as well as stocking books with gendered labels. They have yet to respond to any of our letters, e-mails or social media contact.
Many independent stores demonstrate good practice and receive nominations for our Toymark scheme, although occasionally an independent store with gendered signage does come to notice.
How you can help
Are there any UK or Irish stores we haven’t covered? Or are any of the stores above not living up to their commitments to us? Let us know or contact them directly to tell them what you think.