The Co-operative Retail Trading Group has requested publishers of lads’ mags to put them in sealed modesty bags or they will be withdrawn from sale in over 4,000 Co-operative stores.
The move by all Co-operative societies, including The Co-operative Group, which is one of the UK’s largest magazine retailers, coincides with the introduction of opaque screens on Co-operative supermarket shelves this month (6 July), until the publishers provide their own modesty bags.
Publishers of Front, Loaded, Nuts and Zoo have been given until 9 September to deliver the magazines in pre-sealed bags designed to obscure the front cover, otherwise The Co-operative will stop selling the magazines.
The Co-operative is taking the action in response to growing concerns by its members, customers and colleagues over exposure of children to the overt sexual images on these front covers which, despite the retailer’s best efforts, are still sometimes visible in-store.
Steve Murrells, Chief Executive Retail for The Co-operative Group, said: “As a community-based retailer we have listened to the concerns of our customers and members, many of whom say they object to their children being able to see overt sexual images in our stores.
“Whilst we have tried to mitigate the likelihood of young children seeing the images with a number of measures in-store, the most effective way of doing this is for these magazines to be put in individual, sealed modesty bags.
“As an interim measure, we have introduced our own opaque screens on shelf to reinforce our existing policy limiting the display of such material. The Publishers of these magazines now have until 9 September to start providing their own modesty bags, after which any lads’ magazine which does not have the relevant bag will not be supplied in our stores.”
The Sport newspaper has already agreed to deliver all editions to Co-operative stores in this way from 9 September, following pressure from the retailer.
The Minister for Women and Equalities, Jo Swinson MP, said: “Many parents aren’t comfortable with the way that sexualised imagery has become like wallpaper - everywhere from the bus stop to the corner shop.
“Exposing children to lewd pictures that portray women as sex objects is not appropriate. That’s why The Co-operative’s decision to implement the Bailey review recommendation for publications with overtly sexual images on the cover to be displayed and sold in modesty bags is very welcome.
“Adults should be left to make their own decisions about what legal sexual images they look at, but the place for these is not next to the sweets at children’s eye-level. I hope other retailers will follow The Co-operative’s lead.”