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On the road: Milan

MILAN and COMO , Italy —If we thought the acronym PC (that would be "politically correct," not "personal computer") is a U.S. phenomenon…well, it isn’t; at least not where kids, gender and play are involved.

In fact, the Italians may be well ahead of us in the utopian gender-equality vision; from the looks of the line out the door of the Games Workshop venue, anyway, where the ratio of males to females in the crowd was roughly 50-50.

Where toys are concerned, there appears to be a level playing field (both literally and figuratively) in the toy stores we visited.

And it starts early.

As Graziano Grazzini, managing director of specialty toy franchise Citta’ Del Sole, explains, that retailer’s emphasis is on the stages of child development, not on gender. So the playthings in different sections of the stores are grouped according to age and abilities.

You likely won’t even hear gender mentioned in the stores either, unless you personally bring it up; the sales people never ask "boy or girl?" when customers query about appropriate toys.

The emphasis is also on the "unique." Not a licensed toy in the mix!

And speaking of unique…the chain, which is under the umbrella of parent company Selegiochi, has a sister chain, Natura e…, which specializes in gifts that can be associated with some aspect of nature.

Now, what makes the two unique beyond the fact that they have the same parent, is that they are situated in close proximity of one another, sometimes even under the same roof.

Definitely a plus for shoppers.

Another plus for shoppers is the Chicco chain, which sells juvenile products and clothing as well as playthings.

Here in the United States , we primarily know Chicco for its colorful and educational line of preschool toys. But the brand is actually part of an enormous global company—the 84-year old Artsana S.P.A., which is comprised of a group of 20 sister companies. They are associated with healthcare and children in some way—from pre-natal items for parents-to-be, to products for kids well into their elementary school years. Included in the mix are clothes, healthcare products, juvenile items and even cosmetics.

In fact, the company was actually established as a healthcare business, manufacturing products for the pharmaceutical industry.

The name Chicco is actually the Italian nickname for Enrico, name of the founder’s first son, says product manager of the toys division, Simonetta Cividini.

The founder himself, Pietro Catelli—an extremely young 84-year-old—is still in the office daily, much to the pleasure of everyone who works with him, Cividini adds.

Indeed, the reputation of Catelli—who holds the honorary title of "Cavaliere del Lavoro," which is bestowed by the government—is quite revered throughout the business world in Italy .

"Oh yes," people would say with a smile, "He still comes to the office every day. And he really works!"

(Be sure to read more about Citta’ Del Sole in the January issue of Playthings magazine.)

Stefano Montanari of Selegiochi srl, parent of Citta Del Sole and Natura e…with Playthings editor Maria Weiskott outside one of the company’s several toy stores in Milan. 
The proximity of the sister stores is as good as one-stop-shopping for consumers.

A large play area is definitely an attraction at the Chicco stores, where kids can try on some toysas well as clothesfor size; adults too!

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