Target to Further Diminish Allure of Toys With its New “Gender Neutral” Aisle Decor Strategy?

Are toys losing their allure? When children walk the aisles of Target, Toys 'R Us and Walmart, are they even interested in what they see? Will the gender-neutralification of aisle colors and displays further reduce the allure of toys for upcoming generations? What is THIS little boy thinking about all this? (Photo:

When children walk down the aisles of Target, Toys ‘R Us or Walmart, what do they see? Will Target’s “gender-neutralization” of toy aisles negatively impact overall sales—or boost them? (Photo: myyp.com)

Stores Becoming Reluctant to Differentiate Between Boys and Girls; Fearing Online Backlash

targetlogoGoodbye “Barbie Pink” aisles. Adios, “GIjOE Green” aisles. As far as execs at Target are concerned, there’s no longer a need to differentiate between humanity’s two sexes with such pejorative color decor schemes. In a timely follow-up to our recent story on the dwindling appeal of Barbie (see that story HERE) and Mattel’s once-famous “pink aisles,” Target recently announced that they’re going to remove all gender-indicative backing papers from their toy aisles and replace them with “gender-neutral” (wait for it…) wood paneling. <yawn> Here’s how the top minds at the store explained their thought processes behind the decision:

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“…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.”

Whoa. Before we proceed any further, let’s pause for a moment to ask a reality question: exactly how MANY “guests” are we really talking about here, Target? One? Two? Or were hundreds (or thousands) of color-possessed consumers losing sleep over this subject? Target continued:

“…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.”

How insulting! Toys 'R Us dared to go all pink in this aisle of toys, a move that apparently offends...someone. (Photo: Brent Cross)

Is THIS Insulting? In this undated photo, Toys ‘R Us clearly dared to go “all pink” in its decor strategy for this particular aisle of toys; a move that will certainly offend…someone. (Photo: Brent Cross)

The

The “Tweet” that started a color-revolution at Target showed a sign that indicated both “Building Sets” and “Girl’s Building Sets.” Does this bother you? (Photo: Abi Bechtel)

So…let’s get this straight:

The grouping together of toys that are likely to be of greater interest to one market segment than another via color-unifying backing panels is now considered to be “unnecessary?” If so, are product display strategies, window decorating traditions and store product “flow” analyses also now considered to be passé? Or is it just the use of COLORS that some see as offensive and outdated? If not, where will this all end?

For example, in the near future, is it possible that products placed on higher shelves will somehow offend shoppers who deem such placement as showing preference to “taller guests?” Of course we’re being facetious here (or at least trying to be), but Target goes on to explain how it intends to “help” beleaguered customers with the matter of offensive aisle colors, by revealing:

“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… 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.”

Abi Bechtel, the Tweeter who targeted Target for their encamps and aisle colors. (Photo: Abi Bechtel)

Abi Bechtel, the Twitter Mom who targeted Target for its “Girl’s Building Sets” aisle endcaps. (Photo: Abi Bechtel)

A Twitter Tweeter Targets…TARGET 

This all began when one woman, Abi Bechtel, posted a “tweet” about Target on Twitter. As we all know, millions of individuals take to the blogosphere or “Twitter-verse” daily to speak in favor of (or against) whatever they find to be laudatory (or offensive). It’s everyone’s right and free speech in its most basic form. Bechtel’s tweet (with the aisle sign photo) read as follows:

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“Don’t do this, @Target”

Whenever ANY comment or tweet goes “viral” online, the results can often become a public-relations nightmare for the specific person, business or institution being discussed. With the power of the internet behind a comment, a high-tech “blacklisting” of the person/business/institution can also occur, with the offended parties refusing to patronize said establishments until their feelings have been placated and/or their demands met. For Bechtel, her tweet was largely met with support, but a backlash also occurred, and she found herself the target of angry and derisive personal comments.

Do kids REALLY care about colors used in store displays? Or are toys—just TOYS? (Photo: tampabay.com)

Subliminal or Superfluous? Do today’s kids care—or even THINK—about the colors used in toy aisle displays? Or is that something only parents are concerned about? (Photo: tampabay.com)

Whenever retail stores find themselves in the crosshairs of negative social media, they often find it easier to deploy the standard compensating strategy of a corporate apology followed by a store-wide policy change that accommodates the accuser. When Target ultimately removed the offending signage and aisle colors, a clearly relieved Bechtel told the StarTribune (see HERE):

“That’s fantastic. I think it’s great they are paying attention and re-evaluating how they are doing this kind of marketing. 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.”

Bottom Line: The power of a simple tweet in this age of the internet is not to be underestimated. Bechtel’s timing was indeed fortuitous, and the resulting effect of her statement has resonated throughout many retail chains. Target VP, Kathleen Waugh, confirms Abi’s victory, stating:

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“There are no gender-specific toy sections in our stores. Toys are merchandised by product category, so customers can easily see the breadth of assortment.”

What (if any) effects Target’s toy aisle changes will have on actual toy sales (good or bad) remains to be seen. But for Bechtel, that was never the point. It was always about how toys were being marketed to children. Do you approve or disapprove with Target’s response to Bechtel’s tweet? Regardless, please let Target and the world’s toymakers know YOUR thoughts by leaving a comment to this article below. Thanks! PS…Perhaps the best-known “rant” against color-coding toy aisles came from little adorable “Riley” in her famous video over on YouTube. Take a look:

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3 thoughts on “Target to Further Diminish Allure of Toys With its New “Gender Neutral” Aisle Decor Strategy?

  1. Gary says:

    WOW – When is enough – ENOUGH….Do we not have enough to do than worry about boy and girl toy aisles? I walk them both – as a customizer – I see things I like (or can use) in the pink aisles, green aisles, blue aisle, red (clearance) aisle, yellow, green or whatever aisle – I guess I am just color-aisle-blind.

    What’s next? Will they mix the men’s and women’s clothing together in a “gender-neutral” clothing section?

    Wow…I guess this could mean no more “pink” for girl babies and “blue” for boy babies…because it won’t simply stop here in the toy aisles

    Here’s a novel idea….

    How about just letting kids be…KIDS and keep them as “color blind” …as possible!

  2. Jester says:

    Bottom Line: The power of a simple tweet in this age of the internet is not to be underestimated.

    That’s not entirely true. No one would give a fig about this Bechtel character and her laughably out-of-joint nose if she wasn’t the beneficiary of entrenched propaganda organs (AKA the mainstream news media) drumming up manufactured outrage.

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