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Target’s New Kids Collection Isn’t for Boys or Girls

February 8, 2016, 10:22 PM UTC
Target Store
Photograph by Lucas Oleniuk Toronto Star — Getty Images

Target (TGT) is about to launch a line of kids’ home décor products that pays little mind to what are traditionally thought of as items for boys or for girls.

The discount retailer last summer said it would take down signs in its stores that referred to “boys” and “girls” on toys, bedding, and books, after a social media firestorm erupted when a woman expressed displeasure on Twitter at a sign in one of its stores that referenced “building sets” and “girls’ building sets.” It now primarily uses gender-neutral signage.

Now, Target is launching a new kids’ brand, called Pillowfort on Feb. 21 that is part of CEO Brian Cornell’s efforts to rejuvenate the retailer’s offerings in areas like home goods and inject more style. The brand, which will include 1,200 items, will replace longtime in-house billion-dollar brand, Circo, which also includes clothes and toys. A spokesman said that the new line could help double Target’s sales of kids’ home goods within three years.

Although Pillowfort did not set out to make a statement on gender issues with this line, it evolved that way as Target developed the line. Still, the company says Pillowfort seeks to recognize that kids can like items traditionally thought of as principally appealing to children of another gender.

“It was an aisle of pink, fairy princesses, ponies and flowers,” Julie Guggemos, Target’s senior vice president of design and product development told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, referring to how stores have been in the past. “And for the boys it was rockets and dinosaurs. Well, you know what? Girls like rockets and basketball. And boys like ponies.” She added: “We really wanted to develop a collection that would be universal.”

Target says the Pillowfort collection will still have pink and blue items, though fewer of them. The Star-Tribune reported that the collection’s prints and patterns are more open-ended: trees, arrows, astronauts, and bicycles. Products featuring images that are more traditionally gender-specific, such as basketballs, hearts, and alligators will have neutral colors such as white, black and yellow.

The kids’ home area is just the first step in the transformation of Target’s own brand presence in what Cornell calls a “signature” category he wants Target to own. Later this year, Target will replace another billion-dollar brand, the Cherokee, with another, yet-to-be announced house brand. More broadly, Target is also refreshing its own food brands as part of a companywide overhaul, updating its Market Pantry grocery brand, another $1 billion line.
Some 400 items in the Pillowfort collection will be sold in stores, with the rest available online only.