This bill would require a retail department store that is physically located in California that has a total of 500 or more employees … to maintain a gender neutral section or area, to be labeled at the discretion of the retailer…. Beginning on January 1, 2024, the bill would make a retail department store that fails to comply with these provisions liable for a civil penalty not to exceed $250 for a first violation or $500 for a subsequent violation, as provided.Assembly bill 1084, Passed October 9, 2021
No matter how you feel about state mandates on private-sector decision-making or questions of gender, a bill mandating gender-neutral toy department is now the law of the land in the state of California. That is important to all of us because the California economy is so big that if it were a country it would be the world’s fifth biggest. As a result, toy makes and retailers will have to follow California’s lead.
Therefore, unless the Supreme Court overturns it, the new law will have a significant impact on the toy industry, no matter what the state. The law will affect not just signage but how and where merchandise is displayed on the shelf. It will force designers to think about which colors to use and copywriters to carefully consider their word choices.
The toy industry is unusual in that, through merchandising, departmentalizing, and packaging, we effectively tell 50% of the child population that they should not play with a particular kind of toy; that certain toys are off-limits for boys and the same for girls. How much business does our industry lose every day by creating gender enclaves on the toy aisle?
This law is a challenge and an opportunity for the toy industry. The challenge is that no one has, at least to my knowledge, defined what a genuinely gender-neutral toy department looks like. In fact, though we are conscious of what is not gender-neutral, I am not sure we have a concept of what is. So, before we create gender blind toy departments, we need to figure out what they will look like.
The opportunity is that in figuring out answers to these questions, we will be contemplating how we consciously and, more importantly, unconsciously market and merchandise through gender.
If done correctly, a toy department designed for girls and boys to free range wherever they wish is a toy department that will sell more merchandise. And that is a good thing.
That’s what I think. What do you think?