Toys ‘R’ Us Drops Gender-Specific Toy Labeling in the UK

It’s probably not a gigantic secret that I’d love to see better practices in the marketing of toys to girls. After all isn’t a toy just something to be played with? Why does it matter if a boy or a girl plays with it? We hold to the argument that toys should be made for children, not for gender.

I ran across an article recently that talked about Toys ‘R’ Us in the United Kingdom and their decision o drop gender-specific toy labeling (it wasn’t breaking news, this was announced last fall, but I just stumbled across it as I was thinking about this recently). This was really a pretty ground-breaking announcement and came following a meeting between Toys ‘R’ Us board members and a wonderful consumer advocacy group called Let Toys Be Toys.  Let Toys Be Toys asserts that marketing affects consumer behavior; a child may want a specific toy, but the child or their parent may feel uncomfortable purchasing it due to strong gender-specific labeling. With moves such as this one by Toys ‘R’ Us, now kids will feel more free to purchase toys guided by their actual interests and personalities rather than just their gender.

let toys be toys

Toys ‘R’ Us UK agreed to design and implement a set of principles that will guide their in-store signage. The changes that will occur include the removal of explicit references to gender and the addition of photo images that show boys and girls enjoying the same toys. The chain launched this initiative by taking a look at the way toys were represented in their holiday catalog, and roll out changes from there. I’d love to hear from any friends in the UK who might’ve visited a Toys ‘R’ Us in recent months and/or who receive their catalogs and the like to see what kind of changes you’re noticing, if any.

The Toys ‘R’ Us decision is not the first of its kind in Europe – their Swedish franchise, Top Toy catalog, has already implemented a similar program after urging from – guess who? – Swedish children! It seems kids may actually know what they want in terms of toys! What a radical thought!

This gives me hope that the U.S. branches of this and other major toy retailers will get on board with gender-neutral toy labeling and marketing. Until then, we can look longingly at this fabulous picture gallery on Let Toys Be Toys’ website of toy shops in the UK that are doing it right when it comes to arranging and labeling toys according to function.

What do you think about Toys ‘R” Us UK’s decision? Do you think retailers in the United States will follow suit anytime soon?

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