Toy market news

California passes bill aimed at creating gender-neutral toy departments

The war between pink and blue is back in the mainstream

Following two previous attempts, a bill aimed at creating gender-neutral toy departments has been passed into law in California.

Bill AB-1084 - Gender-neutral Retail Departments goes into effect as law on Jan. 1, 2024, and requires that all retail stores that sell toys, games, and other kids’ products and employs more than 500 employees across locations within the state must “maintain a gender-neutral section or area, to be labeled at the discretion of the retailer.” According to the bill, the location should contain “a reasonable selection of the items and toys” that will be grouped together “regardless of whether they have been traditionally marketed for either girls or for boys.”

The exact definition of what a “reasonable selection” is remains to be seen, but the legislation states that the major issue at hand is that “keeping similar items that are traditionally marketed either for girls or for boys separated makes it more difficult for the consumer to compare the products and incorrectly implies that their use by one gender is inappropriate.”

Gender roles in toys have been a hot-button issue for years that notably flared up between 2013-2015 as some major retailers, including Target, did away with gender-based signage in stores. In the U.S., most mass retailers group toys by category and brand as opposed to gender, but still the heavy proliferation of pink and blue in packaging lends itself to a perceived divide, particularly in the doll, action, construction, and vehicle categories.

The California legislation is already raising eyebrows as retailers will be liable for a civil penalty not to exceed $250 for a first violation or $500 for subsequent violations. California, under Governor Gavin Newsom is the first state to enact such a law.