Are companies limiting profits when they limit who can they play with their toys?

That was one of the focuses of the “Blurring Gender Lines in Retail” panel at Nickelodeon’s Girls’ Lounge. They brought their Girls’ Lounge to Licensing Expo 2017 for the first time. The Girls’ Lounge offered headshots, personal styling, confidence coaching, as well as a restful and safe place to revive with food and networking. They also presented several panels chock full of the Licensing sector’s power players.

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Blurring Gender Lines in retail has been a discussed topic, but mostly geared toward the shopping habits of men and women. Placing limits on gender happens at all levels of a product, including how it’s developed, how it’s marketed, how it’s packaged, how it’s placed in the store, and how it’s thought of in the public conscious.

Many retailers have begun to do away with gender signifiers such as male/female icons, pink/blue backgrounds, and boy/girl sections. Instead of age and gender, said a panelist, stores should create sections for personality type. Online sites offer assistants which help you narrow your choices, and that includes age and gender. This search criteria limits the exposure for boys to an Easy Bake oven and girls to telescopes and Legos. And that affects sales. And this affects the child’s development and in turn, society’s development when limits are placed on people.

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Even the packaging can be limiting. If the color of a box is bright pink, an adult might come to the conclusion, either conscious or subconsciously, that it’s only meant to be played by for boys.

Short Packing Girls

As a toy collector, I know from experience that often female characters are invariably short-packed in the product shipping box. I brought up this during the Q&A section of the panel. And if there’s a Hard-To-Find figure, the older male collectors will snatch them up before any other consumer can get to it. (Or hide it underneath a shelf or intentionally damage it so it’s worth less than the one they bought and don’t want to lay out additional dough on spec that someone would want to buy theirs at a high price.) Instead of creating demand, in my opinion, this adds to the cycle of stifling conscious. If manufacturers want to reach out to girls to play with their action figures, why would they have a lower production line for female characters than male?

I even heard there was a dearth of Rey toys, and she was the lead character in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This goes beyond being short-packed in delivery method. Toys were not even MADE. Hasbro didn’t even include her in the Force Awakens Monopoly game. After an uproar, the company conceded to put her in the follow-up Star Wars set. That’s odd that a company that has an entire Nerf line devoted to girls, Rebelle, would do that.

And I bet their bottom line was affected by leaving Rey off the manufacturing line.

And it’s that mentality that kids won’t play with a girl figure that short-changes society.

 

–Ken Choy

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