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The Great Big Toys R Us Book; a gender critique

December 3, 2011

Toys r us

I have to say that it was with some personal interest that I began my review of the Toys R Us catalog. Last year I had noted that the Toys R Us catalog contained pictures of 4 ride-on cars in which a boy was driving and a girl was the passenger. None of the pictures showed a girl in the driver's seat.

That posting led to a conversation with Toys R Us and eventually an opportunity for me to speak to their buying staff about gender and toys. Based upon Toys R Us's interest in the subject, I was wondering what this year's toy book would look like Vis -a- Vis gender.

Well, Toys R Us did not disappoint. For starters, "The Big Toys R Us Book" had more gender equity than any of the others I reviewed. It contains 93 pictures of boys and 83 of girls; 47% of the images were female. That number is close to parity and looks pretty good compared to the ratios in the other catalogs that ran from 17% for Sears, 34% for Kmart, 36% for Wal-Mart and 37% for Target.

The over-all numbers looked good but what about those ride-on cars that started it all. Well, if you look on page 67 in this year's catalog you will find police car driven by a girl with a boy passenger. Not only that, there are twelve pictures of ride-ons in this year's book and riding in them are 9 boys and 11 girls. When you figure that Sears, Kmart and Wal-Mart showed zero girls in cars, that is quite a statement. I would be interested in seeing sales of cars to girls in Toys R Us compared to the other retailers.

Another area that interested me was construction; typically a male preserve. Well, not only does the book show a girl prominently playing with Lego but the boy sitting next to her is watching her do it. When I met with Toys R Us I had showed them pictures of construction toy packaging from the past in which the boy played with the activity while the girl admiringly looked over his shoulder. This then was a notable reversal.

I am going to be taking same time to review all of the information we have gathered and come back to you with more detail and analysis. Until then, keep your eyes open for how the toy industry handles gender and let me know what you see.