retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Interesting piece in the Boston Globe that explores Wal-Mart's decision to stop selling certain men's magazines (Maxim, Stuff, and FHM) that it considered too risqué, put up "blinders" to shield the covers of women's magazines (Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Redbook, and Marie Claire) it felt were too provocative, as well as "to sell only edited versions of music CDs with parental advisories."

"These were judgments based on customer demand and based on what customers wanted to see on our shelves or didn't want to see on our shelves," said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Karen Burk.

However…

  • The Globe notes that none of the men's magazines were particularly strong sellers, raising the possibility that the decision not to sell them was more posturing than any sort of significant move.


  • And, the paper reports that "Wal-Mart also still carries lots of magazines with scantily clad women on the cover, including Blender, a music magazine published by Maxim that this month features the singer Pink on the cover wearing a skimpy top and flashing a metal plate on her hand that says "Kiss My A**."


  • While Wal-Mart says it made the decision in response to consumer reactions, nobody can quite figure out who protested. Conservative Christian groups say they never asked for the men's magazines to be removed.


  • However, some of these same conservative groups say they’re not happy with the blinder arrangement, because they block the headlines but "tend to accentuate the cleavage on the picture of the model in the middle of the cover." Bill Johnson, head of the Michigan-based American Decency Association, told the paper, "I'm not really impressed with what Wal-Mart's done."


  • And, while Wal-Mart says it was responding to local community interests, the fact is that it made the changes across the board, eliminating the magazines from all of its units - no matter where they are and who its local customers happen to be.


Stop & Shop, which competes with Wal-Mart in New England, told the Globe that it carries all the magazines and doesn't shield covers. "It's not up to Stop & Shop to screen or make choices for consumers," said Faith Weiner, a Stop & Shop spokeswoman. "Our goal is to be a place where consumers can get whatever they want."
KC's View:
We've said it before and we'll say it again. We have absolutely no problem with chains deciding that there are items they don't want to sell.

But editing any sort of content is just plain wrong. And the only person who is wronger than a retailer who makes editorial changes is the publisher who permits it.

Then again, we sort of have a stake in this content issue…