New California Legislation will Require Some Retailers to Adopt Gender Neutral Children’s Sections by 2024

Following the recent trend of retailers abandoning gendered store sections and product lines, California has passed legislation that will force certain large retailers to adopt non-gendered children’s sections in California store locations.

Assembly Bill 1084, signed into law on October 9, 2021 by California Governor Gavin Newsom, applies to all retail department stores in California that have 500 or more in-state employees. The law, which is the first of its kind in the US, requires that all qualifying retail locations that offer childcare items or children’s toys maintain a gender neutral section or area where a “reasonable selection” of toys and items shall be displayed together, “regardless of whether they have been traditionally marketed for either girls or boys.”

Currently, the law does not cover children’s clothing sections, and retailers may continue to offer traditional gendered childcare and toy sections in addition to the required non-gendered section.

The purpose of the legislation is both to help consumers to comparison shop by grouping like products and to mitigate the reinforcement of potentially harmful gender stereotypes that can be perpetuated by gendered children’s sections in stores.

Some industry analysists believe that providing consumers a gender neutral retail experience, even beyond that of children sections, provides an opportunity for retailers and brands to pioneer a growing trend before the concept becomes universal.

Though this type of legislation is unique to California, it highlights the movement of the retail industry toward a non-gendered customer experience, one that more states may seek to legislate in the near future.

Qualifying California retail locations that fail to comply with the legislation by January 1, 2024 face a $250 civil penalty for a first offense and a $500 penalty for any subsequent violation.

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