Target Corporation has announced that it will be ridding its store of all gender-based signage in response to a social media firestorm that erupted this summer over the signs it uses to designate girls’ and boys’ toys.
The Star Tribune is reporting that the Minneapolis-based retailer plans to replace gender-based signs and shelving displays with more neutral signage.
The move is in response to a social media campaign started this summer by a Abi Bechtel, an Akron, Ohio mother who was shopping with her son in a Target store one day when she noticed signs indicating “girls building sets” from other “building sets.”
She snapped a picture of the sign and tweeted, “Don’t do this, @Target” which was retweeted thousands of times.
Bechtel admits that she was surprised it got so much attention. “I didn’t expect it to become the center of this entire discussion about gender and the way toys are marketed,” she told the Tribune. “But Caitlyn Jenner’s pictures had just come out. And the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage came out soon after. So there was a whole lot of discussion about gender and gender roles anyway. The tweet just landed at the right time.”
In a blog post on the corporate website, Target acknowledged the dustup and said, “we never want guests or their families to feel frustrated or limited by the way things are presented” in their stores.
“Over the past year, guests have raised important questions about a handful of signs in our stores that offer product suggestions based on gender. In some cases, like apparel, where there are fit and sizing differences, it makes sense. In others, it may not. Historically, guests have told us that sometimes—for example, when shopping for someone they don’t know well—signs that sort by brand, age or gender help them get ideas and find things faster. But we know that shopping preferences and needs change and, as guests have pointed out, in some departments like Toys, Home or Entertainment, suggesting products by gender is unnecessary.”
Therefore, the store will begin to make changes in the kind of signs displayed in their stores.
“Right now, our teams are working across the store to identify areas where we can phase out gender-based signage to help strike a better balance. For example, in the kids’ Bedding area, signs will no longer feature suggestions for boys or girls, just kids. In the Toys aisles, we’ll also remove reference to gender, including the use of pink, blue, yellow or green paper on the back walls of our shelves. You’ll see these changes start to happen over the next few months.”
However, the website, Target.com, will continue to use gender-based labels as these are commonly used to search for products.
Target is not the first store to cave into the cultural pressure to “diversify” in order to accommodate special classes of people, in this case, the transgendered.
Toys ‘R’ Us agreed in 2013 to remove all gender specific signage from their UK stores amid pressure from groups and has a similar policy in the U.S.
“There are no gender-specific toy sections in our stores,” Kathleen Waugh, vice president, corporate communications, told the Tribune in an e-mail. “Toys are merchandised by product category, so customers can easily see the breadth of assortment.”
As for Bechtel, she thinks the coming changes at Target are fantastic. “I think it’s great they are paying attention and re-evaluating how they are doing this kind of marketing.”
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