toys R Us active boys

Toys R Us: Did they get it?

We’re genuinely pleased that the Managing Director of ToysRUs has taken time to engage with the campaign, but we’re disappointed that it seems they’re not really getting it yet.

Read the email below from Roger McLachlan, Managing Director of ToysRUs, and the reply we sent him today.

Have you found Toys R Us stores to be heavily gendered? Does it put you off shopping there? We’ll continue to try to explain to Toys R Us why this matters. In the meantime, please feel free to add your voice: either comment below, or contact ToysRUs directly.

Facebook: Post to the ToysRUs Facebook page



Email from ToysRUs

Dear ‘Let Toys Be Toys’

Thank you for your recent note. I was glad to read about ‘…the many ways in which Toys R Us are getting this right’. I was also interested to learn about the areas in which you feel we could do better.

Where possible we merchandise toys by product category, so customers can easily see the extensive range of toys we offer. All learning toys, for example, are merchandised together. The same is true for all categories, including sports toys, pre-school toys, construction sets, bikes, dolls, action figures and crafts. Ultimately, it is our intention to offer the widest range of toys possible to our customers and let them choose the right toy for their child irrespective of gender.

With regard to your observation on the use of solely ‘boys’ pictures in the construction area, this 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.

The ‘Girlz’ area is populated with product that mainly appeals to girls but is in no way intended to preclude the purchase by boys. As a commercial organisation, it is usually the sales response that determines the location of the product rather than other factors, such as social constructs.

I hope this note serves to explain our position.

Roger Mclaughlan
Managing Director


Our Reply

Dear MrMcLaughlan,

Thank you for your prompt reply to our letter. We are delighted that you are engaging with us on this important topic and we hope this can be the start of a constructive conversation.

We are disappointed however, that it appears you currently have no plans to change your marketing strategy, as so many retailers (including The Entertainer, Tesco, Boots and Next) have agreed that marketing toys by gender is a thing of the past.

The Entertainer before and after

The Entertainer gets with the times! Before and after committing to non-gendered signage

We are also disappointed that, while you did seek to explain your company’s heavily gendered marketing of toys to children, you did not address any of the concerns raised in our letter about the negative impact of this type of stereotyping.

As parents, our priority – and that of the thousands who have signed our petition and voiced their support for this campaign – is to protect our children from harm. This includes protecting them from harmful, limiting messages about who they can be and what they can aspire to, depending upon their gender. Because parents and children are your company’s key target demographic, we would have hoped that the concerns expressed in our letter would have been of more consequence than your reply suggests.

girls at toysRUsWe don’t accept the assertion that product layout decisions are not driven by social constructs. On the contrary, it is fairly obvious that your ‘Girlz’ section is something of a monument to the socially and commercially constructed fiction that girls are inevitably and exclusively drawn to all things pink, sparkly, and image-obsessed. Despite your comment that boys are “in no way precluded” from choosing items from this section, we are not convinced that a sign saying ‘girls’ is equally welcoming to both boys and girls.

Further examples of sexist marketing at your company are not hard to find: are you aware, for example, that all footballs are categorised as boys-only at, as are robot, spy, electricity and combustion engine science toys, while girls-only science sets focus on perfume, soap and spas? Gender filters on toy retailer websites are unhelpful, unnecessary, and inevitably lead to this kind of sexist stereotyping.


Footballs only for boys at ToysRUs

With regard to your explanation as to why the images on your ‘Construction’ signs are exclusively of boys, it is surprising that this could have happened somehow in the absence of any “conscious decision to use one gender rather than the other.” We rather wish a conscious decision had been made to ensure that neither gender was completely excluded, but as it stands, four out of four images on those signs are of boys.

According to your email, the reason for the exclusive use of images of boys is “merely to show the best graphic of a kid having fun.” It’s been our experience that girls in Toys R Us signage tend to be portrayed as passive and ornamental, whereas boys are depicted as lively and active. Given this context, we are saddened to see that in order to show the best graphic of children having fun, it was deemed necessary to use pictures of only boys. In reality girls are actually as likely to enjoy being active and “having fun” as boys are!

Girls at ToysRUs

Why are girls so pretty, passive and ornamental at ToysRUs?

If it’s a fact that nobody involved in the design, development, or approval of those signs had the insight to realise they are portraying gendered messages, we should think that this incredible lack of awareness of visual messaging would be of great concern to you as Managing Director.

We fully understand that Toys R Us is, as you put it, a commercial organisation, and that your priority is sales. We believe there is a significant reputational and financial risk associated with marketing by gender as this becomes increasingly outdated and offensive to consumers. We are already hearing about customers not shopping at Toys R Us for this reason.

We reiterate our desire to meet with you as we genuinely feel we can offer customer insight in this area, as a representative of thousands of potential customers.

Kind regards

Let Toys Be Toys


Our previous correspondance with ToysRUs

We first wrote to ToysRUs earlier this week. To see our opening email, together with comments from our supporters, see ToysRUs: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly



  1. Julian Francis-Lawton

    I’m going to put this in a commercial context – I’m a Dad, I have a daughter, and I like to buy toys we will both enjoy playing with.

    If she insists on a pink princess castle – she’s going to get it – but frankly I’d rather be playing with Lego or Playmobil or Brio, or showing her the world through a microscope.

    I’m really attracted to Haba’s marketing because their building block sets and marble runs often have girls on the box or in their catalog. I notice their cooking toys often show chefs too.

    That is good commercial sense – you are increasing your market. Sexist marketing shrinks it. It means that we, or our parents, skip over the ‘irrelevant’ aisle – not even seeing what it might hold.

  2. Elaine Atkins

    This is a disappointing response from Toys R Us – althought great to see they have responded. They have ignored many of your points. Your response is fantastic and really hard to argue with – let’s hope that the next response will be of more consequence.
    Keep up the great work!

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