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

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.


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