After writing about Target’s failure to invite my daughter into their children’s section, many questioned, among other things, how a store could sort toys in the traditional manner, limited by the toy manufacturers. Several called for a look at the manufacturers, not the toy stores. They failed to grasp the most important part of the article:
Target failed to keep its word when I knew there was a way.
My little princess has a very different feel for Target than she does for another toy section, one in our local Fred Meyer. So today, I am looking at why Fred Meyer invites my daughter deep into its “boy” section. So I walked through the toy section, with one rule, I could not touch anything. I had to see the invite where my daughter did, with my eyes.
There are two differences I saw between the stores. The obvious one, the size of the toy section, ended up taking a back seat to the very subtle one, inclusiveness. Further, the lack of a third, different section breakout, is equally interesting. Which brings up the key question:
If Fred Meyer and Target have the same section break out, one probably required by the toy manufacturers, how does Fred Meyer bring inclusiveness into its toy section?
A close look at the toys showed a possible answer to this question.
A quick look shows that the layout is similar, though slightly different. Half an aisle is given over to a mixed toy selection. The Lego Kits are still separate from the Lego Friends. The cars are still by themselves. They still have a pink section. The action figures still away from the pink section.
This perplexed me, why the difference in acceptance. Maybe the smaller size, and having the gender-neutral toys in the middle? That seemed unlikely. Then I started looking at the toys. And something caught my attention in the action figures section, Spider-Woman.
It is possible that my little girl, who has been in full-time childcare since she was three months old, and last year, had another child bring his dad’s beliefs that boys are smarter and better than girls into the classroom (which was counteracted both at her school and our home once we realized), would pick up on this small difference, give her personality.
At this point, I made a rule, I could not touch the toys to rearrange the diversity more visible, but could I find gender diversity in all of the Fred Meyer toy section?
As it turns out, I could. Below, you will see pictures taken of all their sections, with comments.
The amount of women in the action figures or men in the Barbie section was small, but, it was displayed on the top layer, visible to anyone who pays a bit of attention.
The Monster High section taking up the middle of the building kits starkly contrasts that of Target, where my daughter turned into the building kits section and saw what she’s been told at school are “boy toys.” In Fred Meyer, she understands that she is allowed to enjoy these toys, all of them.
It is the only thing I could see that was really different. It seems to me, this small little difference said to my girl “you are welcomed here.” She saw herself included.
Yet, it did not take away from the people who traditionally went into the section, and feel strong that there needs to be a pink section or a blue section.
I do not know if Fred Meyer makes an effort for diverse toys, or if the smaller selection makes it easier for them but eliminating similar toys in their selection. Either way, as the Star Wars toys show, the toy makers determine the toys being made. But they don’t have the final say to what toys appear on a given store’s shelves.
Within this selection, stores can and should try for the best mix of toys they can. After all, even if it is just a few girls buying Lego Space or boys buying Easy Bake Ovens, these purchases expand a store’s potential market, leading to more sales overall.
Could the answer to opening up the toy section across gender lines really be so simple? Even without much help from the toy makes, as long as a few of the toys included boy baby dolls and girl action figures, would it be enough? Probably not by itself. This small seeming change is a step in the right direction, possibly a bigger step than you would think.
What do you think? Tell us in the comments below.