Gender-Neutral Toys: A Clear Disparity Between Manufacturers and Retailers

There has been growing pressure on toy retailers to market toys in a gender-neutral manner. As such, Toys “R” Us is now revamping its strategy and is removing labeling for boys and girls. Campaign group Let Toys Be Toys is concerned that gender-specific toys can influence children with regard to sexist stereotypes, and so should be stopped. Some toy manufacturers, however, are still producing toys of this nature and so the disparity between what parents want and what manufacturers are making could be widening, with toy retailers caught in the middle.

Global Brand and Company Share for Nerf and Hasbro, 2008-2012

Source: Euromonitor International


In 2012, Hasbro accounted for a 13% share of the US$4 billion global outdoor and sports toys category, giving it a ranking of first, with Nerf being its largest brand. Nerf’s brand share remained fairly stable over 2011/2012, although it posted a decrease in sales of around US$8 million. In 2013, Hasbro launched Nerf Rebelle, an outdoor toy gun which is being solely targeted at girls. With Nerf historically targeting boys, it could be argued that 50% of its potential market was being ignored and so the new release will work to broaden the appeal of outdoor sports toys, which could lead to a much-needed surge in growth for Hasbro in this category. Whether girls will drop their favourite toys and interests in favour of the new Nerf Rebelle is another story.

Hasbro’s new Nerf Rebelle targeting girls


The issue of gender-neutral toys is a growing one, and one which was again highlighted by speakers and panellists alike when Utku Tansel, Head of Toys and Games at Euromonitor International, attended the World Congress of Play a few weeks ago in San Francisco. Previously, Hamleys, one of the biggest toy retailers in the UK, had stopped selling toys for boys and girls on separate floors and now sells them together on all floors. This move was welcomed by the industry.

Successfully targeting consumers

However, some companies are still enjoying great success with toys targeted at boys and girls separately. When LEGO’s Lego Friends range launched in 2012, the new construction toy targeted at girls was one of the most popular introductions of the year, with the company struggling to keep up with demand. Following on from this, MEGA Bloks has introduced a Barbie range to try and emulate LEGO’s success.

It is evident that there is a disparity between what consumers say they want and what they are buying. Companies like LEGO have developed a strategy whereby they target multiple audiences such as young children with Lego Duplo, the 5-12 age bracket with key licensed product lines and in 2012 girls with the Lego Friends range. With this strategy helping to secure around 15% growth in 2012, it is no wonder that companies such as Hasbro are ignoring the call from certain campaign groups and are developing new products which will broaden their consumer appeal.