Part 3: Sex and the Toy Department


In my last posting I discussed how the Halloween and Book industries handle the issues of adult toys and play.  Barnes & Noble manages its product presentation by segregating adult toys from children’s toys; Halloween takes a more laissez faire approach.

So my question is this: If popular media as well as the Halloween and Book industries blend the innocent with the not-so-innocent, why is the toy department different?  Is it our job to determine what is “Okay” for kids or does that job belong to their parents? Can adult themed products like Stewie Griffin, the football headed, psychotic, anglophile baby from Family Guy and Ted the Bear be merchandised peacefully in the same department as Angelina Ballerina and Thomas the Tank Engine?

I think yes.  It can be done and it should be doneWhy, because it makes economic sense to give your consumers what they want.  The only question for me is, “what is the best way to do it?”  How do we meet the needs of all consumers while being careful not to put off those parents who

want to protect their children from seeing what is offensive to them. 

So here is what I think. It makes economic sense to give consumers what they want.  Do we have a responsibility in doing so; yes we do.  We have to consider how best to manage it so all consumers are comfortable.  Here are some suggestions on how to do that:

  1. Realize that consumers are used to living in a world where their children are exposed to adult themes.  They may not like it but savvy parents have learned that the responsibility to monitor access is theirs. 
  2. Unless you are a book or toy store that is wholly devoted to children’s products, accept that toys are for everyone.  The toy department or store needs to be a family place where anyone from a child to a senior can not only find, but more importantly, know where to find “their” toys and games.
  3. Create a teen / adult toy section that is positioned either in a different part of the store or away from products designed for the youngest children; be discrete.

Ultimately, however, you as a store owner or buyer have to live with yourself.  If you feel that
carrying adult themed products in a toy department is wrong then, by all means, follow your conscience.  If, however, you feel it is your job to respond to your customers’ needs and to increase your revenue stream, you may well want to rethink what is appropriate in a toy department.  If you don’t, someone else probably will.






One thought

  1. Legally, how does this relate to CPSIA requirements for testing of children’s products. If I have a toy store selling mostly (say 85%) toys meant for kids under the age of 14, and 15% for older kids and adults, do I need to worry if the products for adults are not tested to the CPSIA kiddie standards. The packages may be labeled 14+, but if they are in the same store as mostly kid stuff, could I get in trouble. I know the law gives the CPSC the right to determine if the classification of the product is accurate. For example, what if I sold jewelry making kits for both children and adults. The kits for kids are tested, the ones for adults aren’t. Everything is properly labeled. BUT the “grown-up” kits may be attractive to the younger kids. Do I refuse to sell the kits to kids?
    I know stores like Walmart and Michael’s have separate displays of kids kits and grownup craft supplies. But I don’t think they refuse to sell the grown up stuff to kids. Or do they?

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