California Bill Proposing Gender Neutral Toy Aisles Is The Latest Proof That Anything Can Be Taken Too Far

The California Legislature is considering a bill that, if accepted by the state, would prevent department stores from dividing toy aisles and “child-care items” by gender.

But is legislation for this really necessary?

The genesis behind the bill is well intended. The idea is to prevent a child from being dissuaded from certain interests because of their gender (such as cooking related items being strictly assigned to the girls aisle or science related items being found solely in the boys aisle).

Image credit: scalar.usc.edu

If accepted, the bill would call for department stores with “500 or more employees that sell child-care items or toys to maintain undivided sales floors for those items instead of segregating them by gender.” (The specifics of the bill can be found here for those that want to read more detail)

But Target did away with gender specific signage back in 2015 with Walmart quickly following. (God, I miss Toys ‘R’ Us!)

If the 2 largest toy retailers in the United States haven’t used gender-specific signage in over a half decade, who is the bill intended for? How many other toy retailers are there that are A) greater than 500 employees and B) aren’t already using gender-neutral signage? Kohl’s maybe?

And with ‘Brick and Mortar’ stores struggling to cover expenses and lost sales to e-commerce (even prior to COVID-19), why saddle whatever few retailers that would qualify for this criteria with the additional cost needing to reconfigure their sales floor logistics.

Now this is just my opinion, but it seems to me successful retailers already conform to consumer behavior. When I go toy shopping with my sons, they are specifically looking for “Lego” or “Hot Wheels” or “Thomas The Train.” I don’t consciously steer them to avoid gender neutral toys (they will play with food items sometimes), but they simply don’t care about toys that don’t have wheels attached.

Fortunately that is exactly how Target does their signage and that makes for an excellent costumer experience. We easily and quickly find exactly what we are looking for and Target gets rewarded with a ton of my repeat business for precisely that reason. That is how free market works. The store is rewarded with more business, not penalized with $1,000 civil fees.

And the easy shopping experience is even more important when it comes to shopping for clothes. I don’t enjoy clothes shopping for myself, much less my sons. Forcing a consumer like myself to sift through boys and girls clothes just to find a new pair of pants for my son is simply have the adverse effect of encouraging me to stay home and purchase online.

Obviously, not every proposed bill becomes a law and even those that do, often absorb massive changes before passing. As of this publishing (March 9th, 2021), the proposed bill is still in committee, but if accepted and if it passes the California Legislature, it would be in effect starting on Jan. 1, 2024.

What are your thoughts? Does this issue require legislation? Or do you think this is something for retailers and consumers to figure out on their own?

Please let me know in comments below!

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