Retailer Target has said that it will be removing gender signage from the toy sections of its stores.
The move has been prompted by customer feedback questioning why the retailers persisted in denoting some items as girl- or boy-specific toys.
In particular, in June, a tweet by a mom in Ohio went viral and was covered by mainstream news agencies.
Abi Bechtel, a mom of three sons in Akron, was unimpressed when she visited her local Target store and saw that the toy building sets section was divided into ‘Building sets’ and ‘Girls’ building sets’.
Included in the ‘Girls building sets’ were products such as Lego Friends, which includes such items as hair salons. She took a photo and posted it on Twitter with the simple message, ‘Don’t do this @Target’.
— Abi Bechtel (@abianne) June 1, 2015
The image was re-tweeted thousands of times and Bechtel was subsequently interviewed on local news channels.
She told the Minneapolis Star Tribune on Friday that she had been unprepared for the attention that the tweet would garner: ‘I didn’t expect it to become the center of this entire discussion about gender and the way toys are marketed.
‘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.’
On Friday, Target issued a statement via its corporate site saying: ‘To help guests navigate our stores, we put a lot of thought into how things are organized. As part of that, we use signs and displays specially designed to help guests get through the store efficiently while pointing the way to more inspiration and great products.
‘But we never want guests or their families to feel frustrated or limited by the way things are presented. 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.
‘As guests have pointed out, in some departments like Toys, Home or Entertainment, suggesting products by gender is unnecessary.
‘We heard you, and we agree. 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.’
The retailer has also said that it would remove pink and blue paper on the back walls of shelves and just use plain wood paneling instead.
Bechtel described the decision as ‘fantastic … I think it’s great they are paying attention and re-evaluating how they are doing this kind of marketing.’
However, not everyone agreed, with hundreds of comments being posted – for and against the change – on Target’s Facebook page.
‘I am not going to participate in the attempt to de-genderize our children. That is disgusting. You don’t need my business if you’re going to be a front for sexual politics,’ said Moira Greyland.
‘This is a stupid, evil decision on the part of Target to promote the transgendered agenda. Will be boycotting Target!’ said Afshin J Yaghtin.
Target’s decision follows a similar one taken by Toys-R-Us, which agreed to removed gender-specific signage from stores in 2013. Instead, toys are divided by product category.
Although the gender-specific signage will be removed from stores, a spokesperson for Target told the Star Tribune that it will maintain girls and boys sections on the toy section of its website as it says customers frequently search the site by gender.
In recent months, Target has been praised by LGBTI advocates for its support of LGBTI customers. It released a ‘Pride’ range of merchandise for Pride season and used a rainbow in its logo earlier in the year when the issue of ‘religious freedom bills’ was being widely discussed in the US.
The company, which is headquartered in Minneapolis, scored the top mark of 100 in the Human Right Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index for the past three years running.