WHSmith refuses to hide ‘lads’ mags’ from children
Thu, 24 Feb 2011
High street newsagent WHSmith has refused to place explicit ‘lads’ mags’ out of the sight of children.
In response to a campaign from parents, top stores such as Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and the Co-op group have all agreed to put the magazines on their top shelves or hide them with plain covers.
But WHSmith said the measures went too far.
Pressure on stores came after a campaign by parenting website Mumsnet to have the magazines made less obvious to children.
In a survey carried out by the site, it was discovered that 82 per cent of mothers had seen inappropriate magazine covers displayed where children could see them.
One mother remarked: “I object to the fact that I don’t have a choice about whether my children see these images.”
Another said that her child had seen a lads’ mag “placed right by the queue for the till.”
But WHSmith was defiant in its refusal to make the magazines less visible, arguing that its existing restrictions were adequate to protect children.
“We have a strict display policy in place”, a spokesman said, “that requires men’s lifestyle magazine titles be displayed at minimum height of 1.2 metres, equivalent to the average adult chest/shoulder height.”
But Justine Roberts, founder of Mumsnet, said that the store’s stance was “frustrating”, as 1.2m was the average height “of an eight-year-old”.
But she also said: “It’s great that so many retailers are supporting Mumsnet’s campaign”.
Tesco is placing the titles at the back of the top shelves in their stores as part of a nationwide trial.
And Asda has introduced compulsory “modesty boards” for the magazines and has scrapped its policy of allowing publishers to pay to have these titles displayed at the front of their stores.
WHSmith’s decision to leave its policy unchanged has been viewed as surprising, as its CEO is a mother herself.
Kate Swann, 46, was appointed Chief Executive in 2003 and has two daughters, aged 15 and seven.
Commenting on the store’s decision to remove Playboy from its shelves in 1997 after pressure from women’s groups, Mrs Swann said that it had only done so based on sales and it continued to sell the magazine from its railway and airport outlets.
In 2008 Claire Curtis-Thomas, who was then a Labour MP, called for lads’ mags to be given age-appropriate 16 and 18 certificates.
She warned that children are able to access “material of a sexually explicit and violent nature”.
And in March last year Tory MP Nadine Dorries called for a ban on the most erotic lingerie adverts to help protect children from getting the wrong idea about sex.
She said the adverts were becoming “more hardcore and shocking”.
Highlighting the adverts on buses, Mrs Dorries commented: “Since when did it become acceptable to have larger-than-life posters of scantily clad women moving up and down every street?”
Earlier in 2010 teenage girls hit out at modern liberal mums who do little to protect them from ‘pornified’ boys.
“I wish my parents would say I’m not allowed to be home alone with a boy”, said one 16-year-old girl. “I wish they’d say boys aren’t allowed in my bedroom.
“They make this big deal about ‘trusting us’, but that’s not helping me”, she said. “They have no idea what goes on, and I’m too embarrassed to tell them.”
WHSmith’s website says that its goal “is to be Britain’s most popular bookseller, stationer and newsagent”.