In a blog post on its website, Target said shoppers had raised important questions about signage in the store which offered product suggestions based on gender. It said it had used used gendered signage to help customers navigate its stores.
“In some cases, like apparel, where there are fit and sizing differences, it makes sense. In others, it may not,” Target says. “We know that shopping preferences and needs change and, as guests have pointed out, in some departments like Toys, Home or Entertainment, suggesting products by gender is unnecessary.”
The company is working to identify places it can phase out gender-based signage. Changes have already been made to signage in the childrens’ bedding section, which now advertises items for “kids” rather than girls or boys. The toys aisles also no longer reference gender, and the pink, blue, yellow and green wallpaper will also change.
Target has fielded criticism on social media for its approach to signage for some time, particularly with regards to childrens’ toys.
Many petitions on Change.org attack it for the same reason, with Wendi Kent’s one saying that stereotyping childrens’ toys by gender is bad for their self esteem and intellect. Kent last week applauded Target for making the “obvious yet bold decision” to make its toy aisles more inclusive.
However, the change to gender-neutral signage brought its own kind of trouble. A typical recent post opposing the policy change on Target’s Facebook page accuses the company of “cowering to the LGBT community” (and also lambasts it for not allowing customers to bring guns into its stores). Another asks “Who was the Idiot that came up with such a RIDICULOUSE GENDER C**P?” [sic]
Facebook user Mike Melgaard swung into action shortly after the change went live. He set up a fake customer service account under the name ‘Ask ForHelp’ complete with the Target logo and set to work, viciously trolling negative commenters.
Target’s response to this was restrained in public, but on Friday it posted the below tribute to trolls: “Remember when Trolls were the kings of the world? Woo hoo! They’re back and only at Target stores.”