Boots faces Facebook fallout for selling gender biased 'boys' and 'girls' toys

Boots faces Facebook fallout for selling gender biased 'boys' and 'girls' toys

Summary: Drug store Boots is removing gender specific display stands after consumer backlash on Facebook


Last week, UK local Sean Gray was out shopping in Newcaslte and he saw something that bothered him. Boots, the leading drug store in the UK, displayed toys for children in its largest store in Newcastle. There were two stands. One stand was labelled as "Boys' toys", and the other "Girls' toys".

Sean snapped an image of each stand and posted it onto his Facebook page. He also posted the link to the image onto the Official Boots Facebook page, the Let Toys be Toys Facebook page and Boots Official page.

Boots gender toys
Credit: Sean Gray

Comments complaining about the gender stereotypes bubbled across each Facebook page. Another Newcastle local, Ed Whitby alerted Boots of the image of the stands. Boots responded with the following message:

Hi Ed, thanks for posting about our toy range in our Newcastle store. I'm sorry that you're disappointed with our marketing for these toys, and I appreciate you bringing your feelings about this to our attention.

Our Toys & Games Team have confirmed that the reason toys are labelled in this way is to make it easy for customers to navigate our store and locate the products they want.

While I do appreciate that it seems like Boots are stereotyping certain toys, I can stress that this wasn't our intention. We market our products in a way that is accessible and relevant to as many people as possible, and this is the most reliable way to do so.

I can assure you that Our Toys & Games Team welcome all feedback, so I have passed a copy of your comments over to them. I know that it'll be used to assist in their next review of the way that we label and market our toy range.

Thanks again for contacting us about this, and for allowing us this opportunity to respond.

But the commentary about gender stereotyping rumbled on with complaints on Twitter and an on-going conversation across Facebook.

Two days after the original photo was posted, Boots posted the following message on its Facebook page:

Thank you to all our customers who have taken the time to share their thoughts with us on the signs we use in the toys and games area of our stores.

We've always been proud of supporting women in science, and in particular, in their careers in pharmacy, and we were dismayed that our attempts to help customers shop our store hasn't worked in the way we wanted it to.

It was never our intention to stereotype certain toys. It's clear we have got this signage wrong, and we're taking immediate steps to remove it from store. Customer feedback is really important to us, so thanks once again for your on-going passion and support.

Even though Boots does not have an active Twitter feed, it proves that it listened to its customers through its chosen channel, Facebook.

It responded quickly to remove the gender specific stands from its stores. It is heartening to know that a nationwide chain such as Boots can be responsive to its customers and quickly implement a company wide change.

Large companies such as Boots can change direction after publication of just one photograph on a social media site. Other companies should take note.

Topic: Social Enterprise

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  • This is why I like shopping for my daughter

    The biases stay at the store. She is a proud owner of both a tea set and a light saber!
  • Oh No Here We Go Again

    With the Politically Correct BS.
    • How is is PC to not want my daughter to grow up thinking....

      That the science sets are for the boys?
  • It's Pat!

    I think it is because of the following, most people like gender roles:

    I think the overwhelming majority of parents would shriek, if their sons started venturing into the girls sections of stores, and started trying on dresses, girls underwear, etc. Gender roles are fine, since they provide a framework for people to live their lives. I think most people however believe, that gender roles shouldn't be too rigid, and should be subject to refinement, within reason. My guess is that the crime of the store, was that it wasn't sensitive about many women's views about certain roles in society. Maybe the store should consult with women it does stuff like the above.
    P. Douglas
    • As a Brony...

      I am delighted to say that the gender roles are being broken down faster every day. We're unstoppable now. The barriers are vanishing, and good riddance.

      I was never raised in the worst of the psychosis of "boys don't cry" and "girls should smile," because my father, as a teenager, fractured his shin very cleanly playing football one day. The coach didn't believe him, because it wasn't visible. He walked home on it, about a quarter of a mile, up and down steep hills, and when he got there, he had to argue with his own parents all evening before they finally gave in and took him to the ER. I understand they grumbled all the way, too, because he apparently should have been stoic about what everyone thought was a pulled muscle or something.

      So I wasn't forced to be or do anything I didn't wish on the grounds that boys should or shouldn't do it. They always listened to my sister and myself, too, and gave serious attention to what we had to say. We were very lucky that way.

      Now, I'm seeing and participating in a social revolution no one ever expected, the one that's going to finally erase these idiot gender barriers forever, and, with luck, make that compassion and respect a part of the childhood of a lot more kids.

      I want to live to see a boy who wants to wear a dress, or cry when he's scared or lonely, or play with the girls' toys get a hug and encouragement, not a lecture. I want to see girls growing up not having to worry about whether or not they need to smile to be pretty, to learn they don't have to conform to anything unless they wish to, and to reach for the chemistry set if they feel like it.

      Or the football, if that's what they want!

      I'm delighted to see this article, and delighted with the Boots store, though I don't live in a country that hosts the chain.

      That has absolutely nothing to do with politically-correct ideas, by the way. It's not politics! It's society itself. This is the revolution that you haven't noticed, and cannot ever hope to stop, and it will manifest itself in the children of the next few generations. It's an inevitability of the future, because right now there are grown-up young men visiting the pink aisle for Ponies for themselves without fear or shame and coming home to get online and get the positive support of other Bronies, attending MLP conventions that attract tens of thousands of others, making Pony art and music and crafts, and refusing to be ashamed, and I'm proud to be a part of it. :3
  • If someone wants to get rich...

    All they'd have to do is set up a store that completely defies all of the politically correct BS. They'd instantly have a multi-million person potential customer base in those who don't believe in pop-psychosis. And the hatred of the politically correct would only give them further publicity. I can see it now.... "Politically Incorrect - the superstore!"
    • Good idea

      I would shop there! i get tired of getting inundated with others opinions on how i should live my life leave me alone to live it and i will leave you alone to live yours MYOB!
      • So, what are you doing on ZDnet!

        This joint is full of people trying to tell us what's good and what's not! lol
        What's more half of them don't even use what there telling you not to use. ;-)
  • Let me guess right now. This guy

    has no kids. Because if he did, he'd realize that little girls and little boys are wired differently and have different tastes and that the toys for boys and for girls actually appeal to the vast majority of girls and boys. I also notice that there are not armed guards or razor wire (which would be "for boys") separating the two categories, thus making it impossible for a girl (gasp) to ignore the sign and buy a toy for boys.

    Sheesh. The guy complaining is acting like a whiny little girl.
    • I have kids

      and I disagree with you. For the record, my little girl has never whined as much as you did in your post.
      • Shame they will grow to hate you

        I too have children. We never tried to force them to adopt any choice excepting intelligent and kind ones but what every parent knows is that a majority of children embrace gender choices all by themselves. Many of us would really like it if the political vigilantes would just stay out of parenting and just let us hardworking parents love our children and let us all be...

        Alternatively just bloody grow-up.
      • I have kids too

        And I have no issues with my daughter choosing a "boy" toy as opposed to a "girl" toy - toys are toys and the designations at the store are more for organization than some sort of indoctrination. IOW get over it and get over yourself - which is the same advice I have for that easily offended jacklass that put the store on blast to begin with.
  • I'm confused

    Amazon has had Boy/Girl filters in their toy department for years. Still does. Why are they picking on a British drug store over that?
    Michael Kelly
    • Toys-R-Us too

      I'm not trying to argue whether or not it is right or wrong, but you can hardly blame a mere drug store for doing what larger toy sellers have always done. If you want to make a change, go after the big boys.
      Michael Kelly
      • Toys-R-Us does not make a gender distinction in the store

        They do group toys, but no gender definitions.
        • Your point?

          The boys will usually gravitate towards the more traditional "boy" toys and the girls will generally gravitate towards the "girl" toys... however it is up to the child and parent as to what they like and will get not the store. Again the "boy" and "girl" toys designation is more for organizational purposes. Get over it.
  • Although I agree the sigins are silly!

    I do also agree that we at times overdo the politicly correct rubbish.
    I have 1 son and 4 daughters (1 son and 2 daughters grown up) and I've always tried to give them a non sexist upbringing but having said that all my daughters have always leant towards so called traditional "girls" toys.

    All my children and now my grandchildren do cross play but some things never change and I don't think we should force those changes.
    True equality is not done with a "quota system" but with allowing true choice. Good example was demonstrated to me on the weekend, I cut wood for winter heating, and last weekend we also helped oldest daughter cut wood for her family. Daughter, son and father shared equally chain-sawing, carrying and loading wood. THAT'S true equality and we don't need a set of rules to do it!
  • in all basics. . .

    Sean Gray of Newcastle, UK IS A TWAT and a PANZY.
    There wasn't any gender bias what so ever of those BOYS TOYS and GIRLS TOYS shelves.
    Let the consumer decide what they want to buy.
    I sent that BOOTS store a memo,... " TWAT TOYS" and "PANZY TOYS" all in the name of Sean Gray Newcastle, UK
    • I wish I could vote on this more than once.

  • Mass Illiteracy: GENDER ≠ (genetic-)Sex


    Those toy dispays were not "gender-biased" but rather (genetic-)sex-biased ...
    Gender is neither a more polite nor substitute word
    for (genetic-)"sex".

    So what?
    See here»

    The distinction is also important/relevant in other ways ...
    "Sexism" is a far bigger/greater problem (worldwide) than racism.

    It would be a step in the right direction if ZDnet
    would educate itself - organization-wide - and
    not use GENDER when (genetic-)"SEX" is the correct word ...