Jørgen Vig Knudstorp – Lego Group Chief Executive Officer
“[Target] will introduce Lego Friends on an end-cap ), then shelve it with other girl-oriented toys, not with the rest of the Lego—all currently in the boy section. 'As long as girls find it, I believe it will do very well.’”
Stephanie Lucy – Vice-President and Merchandise Manager for Toys and Sports Goods
If you want to better understand why Lego and other toy companies, trying to push the boundaries of gender, have such a hard time, just take a look at Target’s reaction to the new, girl focused, “Lego Friends” line.
"Lego Friends" belongs on the construction aisle with the rest of the Lego products but where did Target put it…as you can see from the above quote…the Girl’s toy department? Here is how the cover article in BusinessWeek puts it: “Target’s Stephanie Lucy, vice-president and merchandise manager for toys and sports goods, says the Minneapolis-based department store will introduce Lego Friends on an end-cap (at the end of an aisle), then shelve it with other girl-oriented toys, not with the rest of the Lego—all currently in the boy section. As long as girls find it, Lucy says, “I believe it will do very well.”
I find Target’s reaction to be discouraging. Think about it, BusinessWeek takes it seriously enough to create a cover article that features a Lego Girl and the words “Lego’s Billion Dollar Girl”; Lego puts $40 million behind marketing the line as well as “…four years of research, design, and exhaustive testing” and the best that Target can do is put it in the Girl’s department and hope that girls find it?
Lego maybe has it right this time and maybe not (I would have preferred to see them take a gender neutral approach). What is important, however, is that they are earnestly trying to reach out to girls and bring them back into the toy department. That is why it is so disheartening to see Target undermine Lego’s effort by staying with a rigid gender policy on toy merchandising.
Here is my advice to Target: Your customers are educated people. They are moms who have careers. They are Dads who stay home and cook. They are children who watch their moms and dads break gender stereotypes every day. Your consumers will not be shocked by your encouraging girls to visit the construction aisle. In fact, some parents may even praise you for being more forward thinking than your competition.
I do hope that Target will reconsider and put “Lego Friends” where it belongs… on the construction aisle. By doing so they will condition boys and girls to seeing each other on the construction aisle and hopefully motivate older girls to once again make the toy department their destination. If that happens we can begin the process of reversing age compression and a decade of declining sales.