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Dublin: 9 °C Saturday 1 November, 2014

Marks & Spencer to introduce gender-neutral toys by Spring 2014

The company said it had listened to feedback from customers.

Updated 3.22pm

MARKS AND SPENCER is to introduce gender-neutral toys after listening to feedback from its customers.

In a tweet to British Labour MP Stella Creasy, the company said:

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Creasy had earlier retweeted a comment from another Twitter user regarding the ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ sections for toys in Marks & Spencer.

Earlier this year, Kerry Brennan of the Let Toys Be Toys Campaign told TheJournal.ie that their group wants to convince retailers to change how they advertise toys.

Today, Let Toys Be Toys welcomed the news from Marks and Spencer. Brennan said:

Since we first contacted M&S in Spring 2013 about their ‘Boys Stuff’ and ‘Lil’ Miss Arty’ ranges, we’ve seen gradual improvements in their packaging and signposting of toys, and their most recent comment makes it clear that they’re serious about responding to consumer concerns about equality and fairness in the marketing of toys to children.

Brennan said that the problem of sexism in the toyshop “goes beyond the retailers’ signs”.

“In many stores, pink-and-blue colour coding and gender-specific packaging and promotion of toys continue to send the message that some interests are only for boys, and others only for girls,” she pointed out.

The campaign has led to a number of retailers making changes to how they advertise their toys to children.

Boots, Debenhams, Hobbycraft, Sainsbury’s, Toys R Us and TK Maxx are among the stores who have pledged to promote their toys in a gender-neutral way.

Let Toys Be Toys had corresponded with Marks & Spencer on the issue, after noting that it had a ‘Boy Stuff’ and ‘Lil Miss Arty’ range of toys.

In May of this year, Marks & Spencer had told Let Toys Be Toys: “I would like to assure you we have taken all your comments on board and we are reviewing our future plans”.

According to a Let Toys Be Toys survey, high street stores are ‘less sexist’ this Christmas, with the percentage of shops using ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ signs having reduced by 60 per cent compared with last Christmas.

Brennan said:

While there’s still a long way to go to address sexism in the toy industry, the changes in major retail chains like Debenhams are just brilliant to see. They’ve replaced pink and blue ‘Girls’ and ‘Boys’ signs with new colourful signs that say ‘Vehicles’, ‘Superheroes’, ‘Soft Toys’, and ‘TV Characters’, among others. Everything is much easier to find and children are no longer being sent the message that science and adventure are only for boys, crafts and nurturing play only for girls.

Read: Let’s bring an end to ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ toys, say parents>

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