Guidance for retailers
"Great retailing is all about providing the goods that customer want , when and where they want them and at the right price. When it comes to children's ranges our members recognise their responsibilities in providing age appropriate clothing designs and marketing these to parents and guardians in ways which do no sexualise or unduly stereotype children."
Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium
Responsible Retailing Guidelines, Childrenswear (updated June 2020)
Signatories include: Tesco, Mothercare, Debenhams, Next, Primark
John Lewis, Sainsbury's, Argos, Boots, M&S TKMAXX and Nutmeg
What does "unduly stereotype children" actually mean, and how does that translate into what we see on the shop floor?
It's a bit of a woolly statement isn't it, and suggests that some stereotyping is permissible - after all, retailers are unlikely to add their names to something they know they can't deliver.
Is it really that hard to drop the "for girls" and "for boys" designs and labels?
Gender marketing is big business and would mean a complete overhaul of childrenswear as we know it. No one is going to suggest there is a quick fix, but there are small steps retailers can take that will make a big difference.
"Calling out even seemingly minor points of sexism matters. It all adds up, and if no one sweats the small stuff, the big stuff with never change."
Cordelia Fine, Testosterone Rex (Science book prize winner 2017)
what your customers are telling us.
Try displays and online categories by type, style, colour or motif instead. Another option is a unisex "character destination" or seasonal zone where customers can find essentials for all children.
The cut of girls clothing is of great concern to many of our supporters. Why are girls clothes cut shorter and tighter? Parents would like to see more choice of lengths and styles.
Slogans that popped up in boyswear recently like "be kind" and "feminist" were a big hit with our supporters. Why not try some unisex slogan t-shirts based on staying positive during the Covid-19 pandemic or thanking keyworkers?
Have we reach peak pink or blue? This is a very common complaint from our supporters, who are fed up with aisle upon aisle of pink for girls and blue for boys. Your customers also don't want a beige or black and white palette suggested by "gender neutral" - they want a choice of bright colours instead.
Colour coding pink for girls and blue for boys is increasingly referred to as patronising and outdated.
Parents we've spoken to find clothing aimed at girls to be far less practical than what is offered to boys. Jumpers and cardigans are made of thinner material, shorts are shorter and t-shirts are cut fitted with shorter sleeves. Likewise feedback on swim wear and sun protection clothing for girls is scathing about the lack of cover and basic choice.
Plus - Pockets please, on EVERYTHING.
Boys can be cute, happy and loving too? Our supporters are telling us that slogans like "here comes trouble" are demeaning to their young boys and the "boys will be boys" stereotype absolutely has to go.
Animals with teeth dominate boyswear, but your customers want to see less scary animals and domestic pets too.
"Pink "pretty" slogans made girls feel uncomfortable and annoyed as it suggests there are limits to what they are supposed to like and do."
Girl Guiding Attitudes Survey, 2015