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July 29, 2013

Co-op threatens to ditch lads’ mags and confirms talks with No More Page Three campaigners

By William Turvill

The Co-operative Group is threatening to stop selling lads’ magazines unless they are delivered sealed in “modesty” bags to obscure their covers.


The publishers of Loaded, Nuts, Zoo and Front have been given until 9 September to introduce the bags.


The Sport newspaper has already agreed to deliver its editions in this way to the 4,000-plus Co-op stores from 9 September.


It comes after the retailer introduced opaque screens to block shoppers' view of lads’ magazines on the top shelf (see picture).

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The Co-op has also confirmed it is in talks with ‘No More Page Three’ campaigners, although it currently has no plans to stop selling or advertising in The Sun.


Chief executive Steve Murrels said the bags are the "most effective" way to prevent children from seeing the front covers of titles such as Loaded, Nuts and Zoo. He said the decision had been made after listening to the "concerns" of customers and members.


But the Lose the Lads’ Mags campaign said the Co-op did not go far enough.


Spokesperson Sophie Bennett said: "The more accurate term for these so-called ‘modesty bags’ is ‘misogyny bags’ because the issue for the thousands of people who have called on shops to lose the lads' mags is absolutely not about nudity.


“It's about sexism. And if a product is so degrading to women that it has to be covered up then the Co-operative should not be selling it."


The move by Co-op comes a month after Tesco’s chief executive indicated the retailer would meet with lads’ magazines campaigners.


When asked by a shareholder why Tesco was continuing to sell lads’ magazines in the current “climate”, Sir Richard Broadbent said: “Our reputation, our standing with customers, is very important.


“I talked earlier about the importance of integrating our values and our customers’ values. And times change. And I agree with you actually; I went to a Tesco store recently and bought one of these magazines, and I was quite startled to see – you know, times clearly change.


“I think it’s really important for us to be thoughtful about what our response to that should be.  


“At the same time, we’re asked not to stock many products, and we clearly have to achieve some sort of balance, and we have to be thoughtful and conscious and intelligent about that balance.


“So I don’t immediately know what the right answer is on lads’ mags, but I do know that we’ve expressed ourselves very willing to meet with the representatives of certain groups and talking to them about it.”


In May, a group of lawyers claimed that shops selling lads' magazines could face legal claims for discrimination and harassment for exposing staff and customers to them.

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