Target to launch gender-neutral decor line for kids

Dive Brief:

  • Target has continued and even strengthened its move to eschew gender lines for some children’s categories, unveiling a gender-neutral home decor line Sunday, available Feb. 21.

  • The line, dubbed Pillowfort, includes some 400 items, including bedding, wall decorations, accent pillows, rugs, lamps, storage units, and furniture, and will replace the retailer’s Circo line.

  • Pillowfort’s patterns and colors eschews pinks and purples or navy blues and browns for more neutral colors, and includes designs for kids normally only found at more upscale retailers. The retailer worked with parents and kids in developing the line.

Dive Insight:

Last year, Target removed gender lines separating bedding and toys for boys and girls after a social media firestorm and amid increasing criticism in the wider culture that toys and other items shouldn’t be designated just for boys or just for girls. 

For some people, perhaps especially those on a budget looking for the kind of design approach found at Target in apparel and home goods, the on-the-nose colors and designs of room decor items for girls and boys can be a tiresome kind of tyranny.

“It was an aisle of pink, fairy princesses, ponies and flowers,” Julie Guggemos, Target’s SVP of design and product development told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “And for the boys it was rockets and dinosaurs. Well, you know what? Girls like rockets and basketball. And boys like ponies. Who are we to say what a child’s individual expression is? We really wanted to develop a collection that would be universal.”

Indeed, Target says this move isn’t driven by a desire to make a political statement, but rather to meet the demands from its customers. And the requests aren’t just coming from parents: Target found in focus groups that kids themselves have a desire for a greater range of designs.

The retailer will still carry plenty of designs, like Disney Frozen or sports, that many kids look for, and says that even Pillowfort will show up in gender-based searches online. Some items will simply show up in both searches for girls or boys decor.

The retailer is also planning to overhaul its kids clothing section, although that doesn’t involve a move to androgynous clothing so much as a reflection of the fact that all kids enjoy, say, T-shirts with science themes.

The Pillowfort announcement is already garnering some complaints on social media from people against the idea of gender-neutral designs (or vehemently for the idea of gender-specific ones), but Target is no doubt aware that its move won’t strike everyone as a good thing. But, with some millennials now entering parenthood, apparently much more tolerant of gender self-identification and blurred lines, the retailer is able to make a broad cross-section of customers happy.

“They’re making bold moves,” retail consultant Carol Spieckerman told the Star-Tribune. “You can’t do that without alienating some people. One person’s helpful guidance is another person’s controlling prescription.”

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