Tags: toys | sex change | lego | girls

Toys Get Sex Change: Lego Sees Major Gains Catering to Girls

Thursday, 28 Feb 2013 09:13 AM

By Dale Eisinger

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Danish toy-maker Lego was making 90 percent of its sales to boys until it introduced a version of its construction sets aimed directly at girls called Lego Friends. That was in January 2012, and now girls already account for 25 percent of Lego sales.

The girl surge helped increase overall sales for Lego by 25 percent. The company posted sales of $4.2 billion in 2012, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Unlike more soldierly sets aimed at boys, Lego Friends takes place in city parks and pet salons. This version of the construction toy features more realistic figures, called "mini-dolls" and features color schemes in pink and purple. Lego Friends is set in the fictional Heartlake City, with many settings of Lego Friends suburban homes and other places of domestic ideal.

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Michael McNally, a Lego spokesman, told WSJ it was the company's first major success with a set aimed at girls. “We were trying to be much more relevant to girls by being less Lego,” he said.

For that reason and for the domestic, pastel-colored sets, critics slammed Lego Friends when it was announced for stereotyping. A gender rights group called SPARK started a petition on the popular Change.org platform to demand more of a less gender-themed construction toy set that would appeal to girls. "Where in the toy store can you find original, creative, construction-focused LEGO? The 'boy' aisle!" the petition, which garnered more than 55,000 signatures, asked.

Lego responded to Spark's criticisms by saying they had done market research indicating girls wanted the kinds of sets released under the Lego Friends Banner.

"We want to correct any misinterpretation that LEGO Friends is our only offering for girls" a statement from the company said at the time. "This is by no means the case. We know that many girls love to build and play with the wide variety of LEGO products already available. LEGO Friends joins this global collection of products as yet another theme option from which parents may choose the best building experience for their child’s skill and interest."

In April of 2012, SPARK representatives had a sit down with Lego executives to discuss the Friends set, asking for less gender-specific activities in future sets, including astronauts and firefighters. The group said it had been misrepresented in the media, writing that, "we made sure that the LEGO representatives were aware that our criticism is based on wanting the best for girls, as well as the LEGO company."

Though, amidst the controversy, Lego Friends helped boost profits for the company for the first time by aiming at girls, it's not the first time Lego has tried its hand at toy sets aimed directly at young females.

Since 1994, Lego has manufactured a series called Belville, with similar figurines that are much larger in scale than traditional Lego figures.

For a decade, starting in 1971, Lego offered the Homemaker series, also centered on domestic themes.

Through the '90s, Lego also offered the more feminine Paradisa subset to its City series.

The failure for those sets to gain traction is seen as a result of the sets having fewer pieces and those larger, more doll-like figures, compared to the male-directed counterparts, McNally said.

Some say shifts in the target market reflects a culture where gender roles are changing, Christopher Byrne, a content director at TimeToPlayMag.com told WSJ.

“The cultural shift opens up possibilities in the market that just didn’t exist before,” Byrne said, “and companies are looking for ways to attract new business.”

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The SPARK petition cited a 1981 Lego ad campaign in the United States that told boys and girls, “What it is, is beautiful,” a sentiment that "invited girls to play with LEGO in a way that didn’t appeal to this lowest common denominator version of girlhood, but gave us credit for being creative, smart, and imaginative."

The privately held Danish toy company has seen remarkable sales growth for more than eight years. And WSJ reports that the sale of building toys has risen by over 23 percent in 2012, in a year when the toy economy grew just 2.6 percent.

Related story:

NJ Girl Wants Hasbro To Make Easy-Bake Oven More Boy-Friendly

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