Stores usually strive to make signage on aisles as helpful as possible for customers seeking specific items in an unfamiliar department. It is certainly confusing that a local grocery store has “beans” listed on two aisles. But too much specificity (i.e. listing every type of beans) on signage would be overkill. Target is getting rid of some unnecessary labeling on its merchandise signs after social media outcry; the stores will no longer designate toys, bedding and other items are for boys or girls.
This summer, a woman started a social media maelstrom by tweeting a Target store aisle sign that distinguished between “building sets” and “girls’ building sets.” There is the obvious redundancy that a “building sets” sign alone would cover them all, but the outcry over labeling some for girls versus the rest for boys received considerable criticism in recent weeks.
Target responded by announcing this weekend via their Web site that its “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.” They even said they would stop decorating some shelves with pink or blue backing and replace it with more neutral paneling. Do not expect the changes to be implemented overnight, however; the chain is reviewing its labeling throughout stores and expects to relabel and redecorate “over the next few months,” according to their announcement.
The Minneapolis-headquartered retail chain acknowledged that guests “raised important questions about a handful of signs” that the retailer intended to offer ideas to shoppers. With heightened sensitivity over gender-bias growing, they agreed that signage by gender in departments like home goods, toys or entertainment are not really warranted. Someone shopping for a bedding with dinosaurs or a baby doll or building sets could be buying for either a boy or a girl based on the child’s preferences, not aging stereotypes.
Target is just the latest big retailer to make the move. Toys ‘R’ Us removed gender specific signage from its United Kingdom stores in 2013 after public pressure and then adopted a similar policy in the U.S.
It should be noted that the gender-specific policies retailers are adopting do not apply to their Web sites. A Target spokesperson confirmed the change will not be reflected on Target.com, where gender is often used as a search term. It also remains, as of today, on the Toys ‘R’ Us site.
Many toy manufacturers have also moved away from labeling merchandise for boys or girls. They recognize that children like playing with toy cars, Legos or E-Z Bake ovens whether they are boys or girls.
While the retailer is changing its labeling practices on lot of merchandise aimed at children, Target did say there will still be labels for boys, girls, men or women appearing where warranted by fit and sizing differences. Those areas are generally in apparel and shoes.
Written and edited by Dyanne Weiss
Target: A Bull’s Eye View: What’s in Store: Moving Away from Gender-based Signs
USA Today: Target to remove gender-based labeling
Star Tribune: Target to remove gender-based labeling in toy aisles
TIME: Target Will Stop Separating ‘Girls’ Toys From ‘Boys’ Toys in Stores
Photo of “Cash Registers” by Marlith – Creative Commons license