Who’s doing what?

We’ve been in touch with a number of major UK and Ireland toy retailers to ask them to market toys in an inclusive way – see how they’ve responded.

We’re pleased that so many retailers have made changes, or committed to do so, but there’s still lots to do. Please let toy stores know what you think – use the contact details below, and our tips to help you.

Making changes

Boots

Boots agreed to remove ‘boys toys’ and ‘girls toys’ signs after widespread criticism, focused on the categorisation of science toys under ‘boys’. Read more about Boots’ decision to drop gender signs.

Contact Boots to let them know what you think:

Website contact form

Boots Facebook page

Center Parcs

CenterParcs_combo-580

Center Parcs’ on-site toy shops took gender labelling a step further, with signs telling shoppers the kind of fun that’s on offer for ‘Justboys’ or ‘Justgirls’! They originally told us that their toyshop refurbishment had had ‘very positive feedback’ from customers, but they confirmed in January 2014 that all the gender-specific signs have been removed. Read our letter to Center Parcs from May 2013.

You can Tweet Center Parcs directly, or contact Nuance Group, who run the toy stores, to tell them what you think.

Tweet to @CenterParcsUK

Email: info@thenuancegroup.com

Post: The Nuance Group (UK) Ltd.
Unit 42 Oriana Way
Nursling Industrial Estate
Nursling
Southampton
Hampshire SO16 0YU
UK

Debenhams

Toy department with separate 'Boys' and 'Girls' shelves.

We wrote to them, and many supporters tweeted them back in May. They finally responded in October with the good news that they are to remove the ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ toy signs in stores. Read more about the changes.

Why not tell them what you think?

Tweet to @Debenhams

Facebook: Post on Debenhams Facebook page
Email: head.office@contactdebenhams.com
Post: Jane Exon
Head of Marketing
Debenhams PLC
1 Welbeck Street,
London,
W1G 0AA

The Entertainer

Why do we Entertain this?

The Entertainer announced in July that they would replace all their ‘girls toys’ and ‘boys toys’ signs with themes such as ‘Action and adventure’ and ‘Construction’ in all stores by Christmas 2013. Read about our meeting with The Entertainer.

Tell The Entertainer what  you think of the changes:


Facebook: Post on The Entertainer Facebook Page
Email: customerservice@theentertainer.com

Post: Rebecca Rees | Head of Marketing
The Entertainer,
Boughton Business Park,
Bell Lane,
Little Chalfont,
Bucks,
HP6 6GL

Fenwick

Fenwick_After_150Fenwick didn’t respond to our letter asking them to remove their ‘Girls’ and ‘Boys’ signs in their toy departments.  Read our letter to Fenwick.  But the signs have been replaced with thematic signs such as ‘Dolls’ and ‘Craft’.

Let Fenwick know what you think.

You can find contacts for individual stores, or Tweet or write to their flagship Newcastle store.

Tweet to @fenwicknew

Fenwick Newcastle
Northumberland Street
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE99 1AR

Hobbycraft

Hobbycraft.jpg-large

Hobbycraft came out top in our 2013 survey of toyshops. We’re delighted that Hobbycraft have replaced their ‘Craft kits for girls’ signs with gender-neutral signs organising their kits by theme and type.

Why not get in touch and tell them what you think?

Tweet to @Hobbycraft

Facebook: Hobbycraft Facebook Page
Email: customerservices@hobbycraft.co.uk

Post:

Hobbycraft Trading Limited
7 Enterprise Way
Aviation Park
Bournemouth International Airport
Christchurch
Dorset
BH23 6HG

Morrisons

Morrison’s told us in June via Twitter that they would be taking down their ‘Boys Toys’ and ‘Girls Toys’ signs, saying “We’re really sorry about this. Please be assured that all the old signage is being updated.”

Morrisons came out as the worst offender for gendered marketing in our 2013 toyshop survey, with the old signs still in widespread use, or replaced by identical pink and blue signs with the words ‘Boys’ and ‘Girls’ removed – not much of a step forward as they still tell children there are two kinds of toys, pink ones and blue ones…

We’ve sent a copy of the survey to Morrisons and asked for their response but have not yet had a reply – read our letter to Morrisons.

Please let Morrisons know what you think, and do email or tweet us @LetToysBeToys photos of any in store signage you see.

Email Morrisons using their online customer services form.

Morrisons facebook page


Marks and Spencer

mandsFollowing contact from Let Toys Be Toys M&S said in May that they were reviewing their toy ranges, and subsequently announced that all their own-brand toys will be gender-neutral by Spring 2014.  See our correspondence with M&S.

While the old ‘Lil’ miss arty’ crafts and ‘Boys stuff’ science and tech toys are still being sold, new, inclusive ranges are now on the shelves, including colourful art materials for boys and girls, and all toys are displayed under signs saying ‘Toys and Books for Kids’ instead of ‘Boys’ or ‘Girls’.

Tell M&S what you think:

Tweet to @marksandspencer

Facebook: Post to the Marks and Spencer Facebook Page
Email: customer.services@marks-and-spencer.com

Post:

Steven Sharp

Executive Director, Marketing
Marks & Spencer Plc
Waterside House
35 North Wharf Road
London
W2 1NW

Next

Plastic jungle animals packaged in a box labelled 'boys stuff'Every single toy in Next’s Christmas 2012 toy range was packaged and labelled as ‘Boys stuff’, from plastic jungle animals to pocket fans, torches and dinosaurs. We’re pleased that their toy range for Christmas 2013 is more inclusive. Read our letter to Next.

Let Next know what you think:

Next facebook page


Next Retail Ltd
Desford Road
Enderby
Leicester
LE19 4AT

Sainsbury's

Sainsbury’s responded to our letter, saying that they agree with the direction of the Let Toys Be Toys campaign, and that ‘Boys’ and ‘Girls’ signage in stores is already being phased out, and gender categories removed from their website. Read our correspondence with Sainsbury’s.

Please let Sainsbury’s know what you think:



Facebook: Post to the Sainsbury’s Facebook page

Email: customerservice@sainsburys.co.uk

Tesco

Tesco have said they will be removing all gender labels from toys on their website, and from stores. We’re still hearing about Boys’  and Girls’ Toys signs still up – do send us photos and location if you see any.

Tell Tesco to keep up the good work and get the signs down: 


Facebook: Post to the Tesco Facebook Page
tescodirect@tesco.co.uk
Post: Karen White
Tesco Customer Services
PO Box 73
Baird Avenue
Dryburgh Industrial Estate
Dundee
DD1 9NF

Toys R Us

We’re thrilled that Toys R Us have committed to work towards marketing toys in a more inclusive way, and that this announcement has generated so much media coverage and discussion of the issue of gendered toy marketing. Read all posts about Toys R Us.

Let Toys R Us know what you think.

Tweet to @ToysRUs

Facebook: Post to the ToysR Us Facebook page

Email: ukcustomerservices@toysrus.com

Post:
Toys R Us,
FREEPOST NAT 3362,
Gateshead,
NE10 8BR

TK Maxx

TK Maxx responded to our letter saying that their shelf-edge ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ toy labels would be coming down.

Let TK Maxx know what you think:

Wilkinson

Last year, Wilkinson’s own brand toys had prominent ‘Just for boys’ or ‘Just for girls’ on the packs. We tweeted Wilko in July to ask about their toy range and they replied: ”We are in the process of updating our packaging which does take on board feedback, but this obviously takes a little time. The new packaging will be in store later this year.”

New, more inclusive packaging is now available. Wilkinsons_newpacks_580

Let Wilko know what you think

Email Wilko using their customer service online form.

LoveWilko facebook page.

No response yet from…

Asda

Asda committed to review their website to market toys in a more inclusive way. We’ve written to them to ask them to take down the ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ signs from stores too. Read our letter to Asda.

Post to Asda’s facebook page

Early Learning Centre

Early Learning Centre claim in their Twitter bio that their toys “help children grow into happy, self-confident people”, so it’s great to see them living up to this claim with inclusive photography and toys labelled and categorised by activity. But pink and blue are still being used to reinforce the idea that boys and girls have separate toys. Read our full open letter to ELC. We haven’t yet had a reply.

WH Smith

Toys displayed under 'girls toys' and 'boys toys' signsSome WHSmith shops use ‘Girls’ and ‘Boys’ toys signage in store, and there are gender filters on the toys on their website. We wrote to WH Smith to explain why we think they should change their policy. Read our letter to WH Smith.

Tell WH Smith what you think.

WHSmith facebook page
Email customer services via the online contact form.


Others

John Lewis

John Lewis in store toy sections seem to do a great job of organising toys by genre, not by gender, so it’s a shame that they use gender labelling on their website. In response to our letter to John Lewis they said that they use gender filters as an additional way for customers to view toys, and that they are popular.  We think that there are real problems with perpetuating the idea that there are different toys for boys and girls, and that gender filters are often used when people are struggling to find what they want. Read John Lewis’s reply, and our response.

Tweet to @johnlewisretail

Facebook: John Lewis Facebook page
Email: 
Online email form

Post (for stores)
Customer Relations Department
John Lewis
PO Box 3586
Glasgow, G73 9DW

Post (for online)

Customer Relations Department
johnlewis.com
PO Box 19615
Erskine, PA8 6WU

For more information see the results of our 2013 survey of toy shops and our ‘Before and after’ toyshop gallery.

21 Comments

  1. Carolyn Gara

    Any news on Morrison’s? Last I heard they were “looking into it”, no changes yet and no mention of them here. Thanks!

    • Thanks for pointing out the oversight Carolyn. We’ve now added Morrisons to the page. See above – they have committed to change, but we would be very interested to hear how they’re following through on this commitment. Do let us know what you see, or send us pics, if you’re in a store.

      • Carolyn Gara

        Thanks Jess, I will take a picture next time I am there. My local store had a refit over the summer and we were hoping the changes would be implemented then, but the pink ‘girl toys’ and blue ‘boy toys’ signs are still there. Carolyn

  2. Mari Booker

    My local Sainsbury’s, West Hove, has moved the toy aisle and it now does not have boys’ toys and girls’ toys signs. But there’s a lot of pink toys on one side.

  3. Gem

    Mari, yeah that’s because moving the signposts doesn’t essentially matter and unfortunately LTBT is only fighting the battle and ignoring the war. As long as we have some token non-signage, all the hideous sexist play concepts and colours can remain and LTBT feels like they’re doing something profound.

    • Gem – Aren’t wars generally won one battle at a time? LTBT aren’t ignoring anything. If you think you know how to get rid of “all the hideous sexist play concepts and colours” in one go – please please do – we’d all love to see it. LTBT are open to suggestions but for now it’s one step at a time.

  4. Gem

    And what does LTBT plan to do when the stores have made their token gestures? This feels almost like a diversion and an unfortunate dismissal of the real problem which is essentially a lot of the toys themselves and a culture which prioritises corporations over children, promotes hyper-sexualised play concepts for little girls and is pinkwashing their whole childhood pretending it is somehow innate in girls to want this. They literally promote vapidity and domesticity for girls and aggression for boys, paving the way for some awful problems in later life. Changing the signs doesn’t make a difference to the packaging and the stark messages that go with them. Point is, the stuff is so gendered anyway, the kids and grown-ups don’t need the signs. Ie. Changing the M&S Marble run description from ‘boys’ to ‘children’, that’s great, but the packaging still has a skull on it and every child knows that ‘skulls’ are meant to be for boys. So, do you plan to point out that by putting this absurd symbol on a marble run they automatically exclude girls anyway and most girls are still going to not choose the dark packaging etc as they’ve already had all these messages not to. There’s still no real choice for the kids.

    • I agree with a lot of the things you’ve said Gem, not sure why you’d think otherwise?

      If you take a look around the site and read some of the blog posts, you can see the work the campaign is putting into ‘the whole problem’ raising issues like toys and child development, or bullying. The decision to tackle retailers as a first step came after a lot of discussion on the way to tackle the whole industry. The next step of the campaign is to tackle manufacturers.

      Taking down the signs may seem like a small victory, but it matters. And as you acknowledge, packaging is also a part of the campaign, as are catalogue pictures, websites, clustering toys by gender, the pink/blue divide etc etc. LTBT campaign on all aspects of toys and gender.

      It’s a frustratingly slow process, if we knew how to do it any quicker we would, at the same time we are proud of the progress we’ve made in our first year.

      What we see as small common sense steps (token gestures if you like), have received international attention and raised awareness and debate around the whole issue of gendered childhood.

      It’s been a talking point on radio shows, newspapers, parenting websites and blogs. Just google our name, or the phrase ‘gender and toys’ to see how we’ve helped to turn up the volume on this debate. And that has to happen before any more substantial changes are going to come.

      A couple of recent examples are coverage of the Toys “R” Us story on Fox news in the US and Newsround’s week-long series about how gender stereotypes affect boys and girls in the UK.

  5. Has there been any commitment to remove the gendered signage from stores outside of the UK? I don’t see any moves towards updating the signage in any of the Tesco stores I regularly visit in and around Dublin.

  6. Gem

    I’d be really interested to know your next plan of action.

  7. Kerry Brennan

    Hi Jen,

    Thanks for your question and for the information on how things are looking in Dublin! I’m one of the organisers of the campaign and am also in Ireland.

    We have had confirmation from Boots, TKMaxx and Tesco that the changes they’ve promised apply to Ireland too. We’ve had reports from supporters in the UK too that signs are still up in some Tesco branches, and have challenged Tesco on that where we have the locations and /or pictures to tweet at them. We’d be very happy to do the same on your behalf if you want to let us know where your local Tesco is and what the signs are like (or if possible, take a picture the next time you’re in!).

    Next and M&S have indicated that they’ll make some changes to their own-brand toy ranges. There have been small incremental changes at some M&S locations (“Boys Stuff” taken off the packaging of the marble run for example, but the overall packaging the same), but that seems to depend on what branch you visit at the moment. When the new (hopefully more inclusive) ranges are introduced, we should see the same changes in Ireland that the UK will see.

    The Entertainer, Toys R Us, Morrisons, Sainsbury and Hobbycraft don’t have branches in Ireland (ROI) as far as I know, but you’re aware of any branches in Dublin (or elsewhere) please let us know and we’ll follow up to make sure that the promised changes will apply here too.

    I am based in Cork, and the Irish companies seem okay here – Dunnes don’t have gendered sections and Supervalu don’t have toys, the local toy shops are lovely and inclusive. If there are Irish stores (or branches of international companies) that you have seen, in Dublin or elsewhere in Ireland, that we should be challenging, we would be happy to do that once we have the information.

    I’m really delighted that you’ve taken the time to get in touch, because we have fewer people spread around Ireland than we do in the UK to let us know where the issues are. If you’d be interested in keeping us posted on how things are looking where you are, we could use the extra pair of eyes – it would just mean having a look at the toy aisles when you’re out and about anyway, and keeping us informed about what you’re seeing. Feel free to drop me a line at lettoysbetoys@gmail.com if you’d like to get involved.

  8. Martha

    Hi Have you looked at Clarks shoes? They are one of the go to places for children’s school shoes and certainly this autumn the ‘girls’ shoes are hardly fit for the weather (sandal type) and some have heels. Last season I was nearly sold shoes with dollies hidden in the soles. The ‘boys’ shoes seem much more geared towards function and comfort. It seems to me to convey an insidious message about which activities are suitable for the wearers. I’d be interested to know what other people think and what, if anything, might be done….

    ……or is it just me?

  9. Jane

    I am driven mad every day by hideous pink girls stuff – toys, clothes, bedding, etc etc My daughter is 3.5 and hates pink and ‘pretty girls stuff’. At her age she shouldn’t even be aware of a difference, but she was from age 2. Clarks girls shoes are generally awful – pink or purple with flowers etc. she lives in Nike trainers and her school shoes are very practical boys ones.

  10. kt

    I have just come across this site today and I am so moved by the impact you have had. I think it is incredible how many huge retailers have responded in the right way. I hope the change is a permanent one. Well done, and thank you.

  11. Caroline

    Picking up on Martha and Jane, I totally agree about kids shoes. My son used to find the boys shoes very boring when he was a toddler, no sparkles or pictures on them. But on the plus side they are very study and keep your feet covered. Clarks (and Startrite) hardly make any girl’s shoes which even protect from basic rain. Most look like party shoes, and even the boots are covered in embroidery and all fluffy. Why can’t we just have ‘children’s shoes’, which have suitable styles for both genders? Ok, it’s not directly related to LTBT but still a message which is being sent out to children about what they should be doing in their shoes (ie. not getting all wet and muddy in the case of girls). My 3 year old daughter has to mostly wear wellies or trainers as I can’t find shoes for her that suit everyday wear.
    I do want to congratulate LTBT on all your achievements so far, even raising the profile of gender stereotyping in children’s products is a great achievement and I’ll be looking at how I can further support you (I help run an educational charity).

  12. Katie

    I just noticed that John Lewis still have “ideas for boys toys” and “ideas for girls toys” on their website.

  13. Katie

    Separately, and relating to a much smaller company, there is a small toy shop in our area:

    http://www.enchantedkids.co.uk/

    They have on their website two sections with dolls in them: Dolls and Teddies, and Toddler and Preschool toys. In the Dolls section they only have girl dolls. In the Toddler and Preschool soft toy section, they also have a soldier, and a Knight rag doll. I asked on their FB page

    https://www.facebook.com/enchantedkidscompany?fref=ts

    why they didn’t put the boy dolls in the Dolls section, they said (from memory) that they didn’t think people would look for them there as they are toddler toys (They seem to have deleted my post from their FB page).

    This seemed so bizarre to me! To give them some credit, they do not have separate Boys and Girls sections on their website – but I was specifically looking for a boy doll.

  14. Emma Dixon

    Hi! I totally agree about Clarks and have written to them today about their appallingly sexist signage. Their CEO is melissa.potter@clarks.com if you want to do the same!
    Emma x

    Dear Ms Potter

    On Saturday 31 May I visited the Clarks store in Westfield, Stratford and was horrified to find these terrible, gender-stereotyped notices above the boys’ and girls’ shoes.

    As you may be aware, gender stereotyping has an important effect on children’s development. To suggest that boys engage in active outdoor play of the type that destroys shoes, while girls are interested in fashion and looking pretty, is to reinforce damaging social stereotypes and to deprive both sexes of the opportunity to become who they really are.

    I am sure you are already well aware of these issues but if not you can read more about them here:

    http://www.lettoysbetoys.org.uk/why-it-matters/

    I seek your assurance that Clarks will change its signage as soon as possible, acknowledging the reality that—

    -Some children like to test their shoes to destruction, and this applies to both girls and boys.
    -Some children like to look stylish, and this applies to both boys and girls!

    I look forward to hearing from you. I should note that I have contacted your company on twitter but have had no response.

    Yours

    Emma Dixon
    @emmadixon_green

  15. Emma Dixon

    Hi! Just a quick update on Clarks Shoes. As a lot of you may already know, there is now a petition about this which has gained 20,000 signatures so far. We have recently written to the CEO of Clarks, Melissa Potter, asking for a meeting. Watch this space!
    http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/remove-outdated-sexist-signage-from-clarksshoes-shops-letshoesbeshoes

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