You will have seen the recent announcement from the Co-operative that from September it will only sell lads mags in opaque covers provided by publishers. Tesco followed suit pretty soon after, not only committing to covering these publications, but introducing a policy of not selling them to under-18s.
There’s been lots of talk about these decisions and the implications for the trade, but I think there is a consensus, which ACS supports, that these magazines’ covers should not be displayed to children. Our role is to advise you, as a retailer, how to approach this issue from here.
First, whatever decision you take on lads mags has to be rooted in what your customers want. Are they complaining about these covers, or do you hear them talking about them? You could speak to some of your customers, either through a formal customer panel (also a great idea, incidentally, for running local charity and community work) or by consulting those you know well.
Second, make sure you are using the guidance available. ACS has some easy-to-understand free advice on this issue, explaining how to keep these magazine covers out of children’s sight by over-laying magazines and keeping them away from kids’ titles.
Third, if you feel you need to do more, talk to your news wholesaler about acquiring covers for these titles, or the publisher about attaching covers to the magazines. This will help to protect you and keep the pressure on publishers to act to support retailers who are coming under pressure from customers to cover these magazines.
Finally, be open about the decision you have made. If you have taken steps in response to your customers’ views you should feel confident explaining why. Larger organisations such as the Co-operative can run excellent PR campaigns when they take decisions like this, and you have every bit as much power to communicate to your own customers and community.