ToysRUs is a massive player in UK toy retail, so we’re keen to meet with them to discuss their how they promote and display toys in their stores and online.
There’s plenty that’s positive in the stores we’ve visited, with some areas organised by theme or type, for example outdoor toys or pre-school toys. But using only pictures of boys in the construction aisle is less welcoming for girls, and we’re really disappointed to see prominently labelled ‘Girlz’ sections, filled with mainly pink toys, with a strong emphasis on glamour, appearance and domesticity. And does that leave the rest of the shop to the Boyz?
What have ToysRUs said so far?
ToysRUs have definitely made some encouraging statements. Speaking to the Womens’ Views on News site, Kathleen Waugh, vice-president of Toys R Us corporate communications, denied a gender divide in stores. She said: “At Toys R Us, we do not merchandise, or promote in marketing, vehicles, toys by gender.
“Toys are merchandised by product category, so customers can easily see the breadth of assortment.”
And ToysRUs boss Roger McLoughlan said on BBC Breakfast news last year, ‘We’re gender-neutral, really’. (Watch: 3.03)
See below for our letter to ToysRUs, including some of the comments made by Let Toys Be Toys supporters. We look forward to hearing back from them soon, and will keep you posted. In the meantime, feel free to add your voice: either comment below, or contact ToysRUs directly.
Facebook: Post to the ToysRUs Facebook page
We are writing as a campaign representing thousands of consumers with a message for toy retailers: please do not steer our children toward certain toys, and dissuade them from others, based on gender-based assumptions about their interests. We would like to meet you to discuss your, policy in this area to see if there is common ground which is beneficial both to our supporters‟ interests and to Toys R Us.
We are pleased to see the many ways in which Toys R Us are getting this right with several sections of the store labelled by theme and illustrated with pictures of both boys and girls. There are many examples where all colours of packaging – including pink – are together on shelves labelled “Puzzles,” “Magic,” and “Let‟s Discover Science.” This layout is easily navigable, and welcoming to all children.
We were also pleased to hear your interview on BBC Breakfast where you stated that Toys R Us stores in the UK are “gender neutral”. However we can clearly see that this policy is not being implemented in all stores. Our supporters noted that many stores only had pictures of boys in the „construction‟ aisle, and that most stores had a specific area signposted for girls. This area is predominately devoted to items depicting beauty, domesticity and (bizarrely) pink versions of toys found elsewhere in the store.
There are a number of reasons why shelving toys by gender is a problem for children: It treats girls as a marginal minority while strongly implying that the rest of toys in the shop are, by default, meant for boys. It makes sexist assumptions about girls‟ interests, sending the message that they should be concerned mainly – and to the exclusion of other pursuits – with a narrow range of toys and accessories, many of which are focused on appearance. It explicitly excludes boys from a section of the shop, and „shames‟ those boys who might have an interest in these items, by labelling those interests as only suitable for the other sex.
We believe that Toys R Us stores should represent limitless possibilities for all children to play, whether they want to push a baby buggy and kick a football, or build with bricks and have tea parties. Toy shops should not be places where children are made to feel stifled by dated stereotypes.
Additionally, there are problems for retailers with this approach. A growing number of consumers simply won‟t visit retailers that engage in sexist marketing to children, so as not to expose children to messages that undermine values such as equality and individuality. And increasingly, they have alternatives. Since the Let Toys Be Toys campaign began, a number of stores have committed to non-gendered signage including Boots, Hobbycraft, Tesco and The Entertainer.
Our campaign has significant support from consumers in their thousands who have supported us on Facebook, Twitter and signed our petition. We have included an appendix of just some of the comments we have seen relating to Toys R Us on social media. The campaign also has significant media support and is reported on internationally.
By marketing all toys by theme Toys R Us would make the experience easier and more pleasant for the customer, allow marketing executives more freedom in terms of display options, and open out the store to encourage customers to visit every aisle.
We are passionate about toys and promote retailers who sell in a non-gendered way.
We look forward to hearing more from you about your policy and plans in this area, and can be contacted via the email address above. You can visit www.22.214.171.124/lettoysbetoys.org.uk to find out more about our campaign.
Let Toys Be Toys
@anise44 “I don‟t go to @ToysRUs. The pink ghetto aisle is a horrible way to sell toys. We go to places that sell by theme – more choice”
@sarahbanks74 “‟@ToysRUs less pink PLEASE! My eldest daughter LOVES construction and transport – wants trains and roary the racing car 4 bday”
@TessGwen “Confused why you think Sylvanian Families are for Girlz @ToysRUs – will be a lot of disappointed „boyz‟ “
@enkidu97 “@ToysRUs Do we really need to label toys girl or boy? What if a boy likes Monster High?”
@Hedgeypig “We call it pink hell. Nothing wrong with some of the toys per se but look at it. A sea of conformity.”
@LightsOfTucson “@ToysRUs Pink is only one colour in many. Why limit? You don‟t limit boys‟ colours to the same extent. Why girls?”
@ybawife “@ToysRUs its getting worse… the brainwashing of our children in the matter of colour is sickening”
@Stavron “MD of @ToysRUs: „we ARE gender neutral‟… Riiiight…”
@mummylucy “@ToysRUs My son is 4, he loves hotwheels, nerf guns & football. He also loves pink, baking cakes & glitter. Get it right!”
Katie: “Toys R Us are the absolute worst for gender stereotyping toys. 4 aisles of pink dolls, jewellery and make up sets and 4 aisles of blue and black action toys and animals – under HUGE headings of GIRLS and BOYS. Instruments and bikes for girls are ALL pink. I refuse to shop there unless they change their attitude.”
Sarah: “I won‟t go into Toys R Us. The pink aisle just annoys me too much.”
Trudi: “I‟ve only been in there once. I turned around and walked straight out.”
Claudette: “Omg. Dream dazzlers makes me feel rather ill…”
Michelle: “I refuse to take my daughter into stores where they separate toys by colour.”
Jess: “Only time I‟ve been in ToysRUs I took AGES to find what I wanted. Eventually I found a member of staff who was able to help me find the Jessie Cowgirl costume I wanted. It was in the ‘boys’ aisle. (Because Toy Story is for boys. And organising toys by gender ‘helps’ shoppers. Hmmm…) I haven‟t been back.”