Toys R Us using gender-neutral marketing in UK stores

By Celeste Tholen Rosenlof | Posted - Sep 9th, 2013 @ 11:51am

UNITED KINGDOM — A campaign to remove “extremely limiting” gender marketing at Toys R Us has the toy store giant changing up signage and their Christmas catalogue in the United Kingdom to promote inclusion.

Wednesday, the Let Toys Be Toys campaign announced Toys R Us had acquiesced to remove gender-specific signage separating toys for girls and boys from its UK stores. The store said it would also include images of boys and girls playing with the same toys in its Christmas catalogue. The change came in response to an online petition.

“We’re delighted to be working so closely with a major toy retailer and believe that there is much common ground here,” said Let Toys Be Toys campaigner Megan Perryman in the press release. “Even in 2013, boys and girls are still growing up being told that certain toys are ‘for’ them, while others are not. This is not only confusing but extremely limiting, as it strongly shapes their ideas about who they are and who they can go on to become. We look forward to seeing Toys R Us lead the way to a more inclusive future for boys and girls.”

In a statement to MSN News, a Toys R Us spokesperson said the change would not affect stores in the United States, as its American stores are not divided by gender but by product type.

"As a company, we will continue to be diligent and caring in gender portrayals throughout our stores and in our various marketing vehicles," Kathleen Waugh, vice president of corporate communications at Toys R Us, told MSN News.

Toys R Us has responded several times to petitions about gender issues. In 2011, the company responded to a conversation with Richard Gottlieb, president of a business development firm about gender roles in their catalogue. In it, Gottlieb pointed out four photos of girls in ride-on cars, acting as passengers to a boy driver. No pictures showed a girl in the driver’s seat. The next “Big Toys R Us Book" showed more gender equity than Sears, Kmart, Wal-Mart and Target, he reported.

Last year, the store launched a gender-neutral advertising campaign throughout Sweden in response to schoolchildren’s complaints of exclusivity. The campaign included images of girls playing with Nerf guns and boys playing with dolls.

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Celeste Tholen Rosenlof

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