Target stores are undergoing a sex change of sorts.
The retail giant announced last week its stores would begin phasing out some gender-specific product categories and switch to gender-neutral displays and colors after guests complained, or, as a company statement said, “raised important questions.”
“Right now, our teams are working across the store to identify areas where we can phase out gender-based signage to help strike a better balance,” the statement, posted to Target’s website, said. “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, including the use of pink, blue, yellow or green paper on the back walls of our shelves. You’ll see these changes start to happen over the next few months.”
“Barbies are still going to be with Barbies and Legos will still be with Legos. We just didn’t feel like having a sign that said ‘boys bedding’ was necessary”
- Molly Snyder, Target spokesperson
The push to stop segregating shelf space for action figures and princess dolls rose to a national level in June after Ohio mother Abi Bechtel snapped a photo identifying an aisle's contents as containing “Building Sets” and “Girls’ Building Sets.”
“Don’t do this, @Target,” Bechtel wrote above the photo.
That tweet went viral, getting more than 3,000 retweets and favorites each – and a reply from Target. “We’ve made sure to share this with the right teams for further review,” @AskTarget, the guest services Twitter arm of the company, replied to Bechtel a day after her original tweet.
Target’s statement last week alluded to customers such as Bechtel who had objected to its signage.
“But we never want guests or their families to feel frustrated or limited by the way things are presented,” Target’s statement said.
The change isn’t sitting well with all observers, however.
Franklin Graham, an evangelist who is the son of famed preacher Billy Graham, wrote on Facebook that “Target is way off-target on this one!”
“I think Target may be forgetting who had made their stores strong,” Graham wrote. “It’s not gender-neutral people out there – it’s working American families, fathers and mothers with boys and girls they love.”
Just two months ago, sex-specific signage seemed here to stay at Target.
“Recently we conducted a test where we removed any reference to gender in the toy aisles in a number of our stores,” a Target spokesperson told BuzzFeed on June 12. “In those stores, our guest research showed us that guests preferred having a variety of indicators that can help inform and guide their shopping trip.”
So, in the span of a couple months, what changed?
“Leading up to that moment there’s been a broader conversation about gender and signs and using gender indicators, especially as it relates to kids,” Target spokesperson Molly Snyder told Fox News. “Like all retail, the way people shop is continually changing, so when people look across our stores, we thought the two changes we’re making were the ones that make sense at this point in time.”
The changes will not affect all aspects of the store, Snyder said.
“Clearly – I would hope clearly – we’re still going to have a mens’, womens’, boys’ and girls’ clothing department,” she said. “Barbies are still going to be with Barbies and Legos will still be with Legos. We just didn’t feel like having a sign that said ‘boys bedding’ was necessary.”
And consumers can still “shop by gender” for “boys’ toys” and “girls’ toys” on Target.com, something which the company doesn’t expect to change.
“We really took a pause and looked at what made sense in our stores, where does it make sense online and where is it unnecessary,” Snyder said. “One of the top ways people shopped online is by searching by gender. We wanted to make sure our site and stores are easy to shop, and follow a logical path for people.”