Sweden’s Toys R Us “Top-Toy Group” Offers Gender-Neutral Toys

By December 2, 2012

Sweden’s Top-Toy Group (a licensee of Toys R Us) has gone gender-neutral with their Christmas toy catalog, featuring boys styling hair/changing babies and girls playing with guns/playing with cars.

When ad watchdogs Reklamombudsmannen went after the 303 store-strong retailer repeatedly for utilizing ads featuring girls playing with dolls, cooking, etc and boys with guns and cars (i.e. what we see in the U.S. on a daily basis), Top-Toy decided to try something a little different this year by adjusting store displays and even Top-Toy exclusive toy packaging; the new box of Happy House now features boys and girls happily playing together.

We’re happy here in the Happy House!

Top-Toy’s sales director Jan Nyberg said “We can’t decide what the big toy makers’ boxes should look like as their products are made for the global market, but we can make changes on our own boxes and in our stores.”

Not only have they made changes to their catalogue, they’re training their employees to avoid stereotypes by instead of automatically directing customers to toys based on gender to ask customers what their children’s interests are instead.

“I think it’s amazing that they’ve actually listened to the consumers. I didn’t used to shop here as much before they changed, because I didn’t like the way they separated between girls and boys, pink and blue.” – Malin Welin, insurance saleswoman and mother of a 2-year-old son.

But there ARE some naysayers like Lisa Wade (sociologist and professor – Occidental College) says while the idea is great because it challenges views of masculinity.

“You may give tool toys to your daughter, [but] you don’t give the lipstick bag to your son.”

As a girl who grew up as a tomboy before coming into my own as a woman, I can say that it didn’t matter WHO the toys were marketed for…if I wanted to play with them, I played with them. I can’t count the number of hours my brother and I played with Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars or had tea parties that turned into epic lightsaber battles, but tea parties just the same. But knowing I had the option of doing what I wanted to do (not to mention a LOT of these toys teach life skills LIKE cooking and cleaning) made me who I am today…and that’s what Top-Toy Group wants to do, too.

As with any endeavour, there ARE naysayers to Top-Toy Group’s attempt including Dr. Wade when she noted, “It’s a mistake to think that companies typically do this out of ethical belief, most of the time they are doing it strategically.”

Whether it’s for real or a “clever marketing ploy” (as Wade suspects), Jan Nyberg says that Top-Toy has received positive feedback and of course some resistance…but Nyberg sums it up perfectly.

“As always, there are two camps”

Thanks to Wall Street Journal Online for the wonderful source!

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Cricket Lee
Star Wars fangirl. Named Best Kisser by Time Magazine. CEO/Host: Girl Gamer; host of Gecken: GeekNation; writer: Dread Central. You'll have a crush on me soon. Vote Quimby. Twitter: @crixlee http://www.imdb.me/crixlee