Lads' mags campaign


Following the success of our Let Girls Be Girls campaign, and after consultation with you lot, we decided to call for men's lifestyle magazines (otherwise known as 'lads' mags') not to be displayed in children's sight in shops. 

'I object to the fact that I don't have a choice about whether my children see these images.' (Survey respondent)

A quick survey confirmed that an overwhelming 9 out of 10 of you don't want lads' mags to be displayed where children can see them; so we wrote to all the major news retailers, including supermarkets, telling them what you thought, and asking them to change how they display publications with adult sexual imagery on their covers.

UPDATE July 2015: further to some press coverage (Huffington Post and Pink News) about an edition of Attitude magazine being hidden behind a modesty cover, we'd just like to make it clear that this campaign has always been about asking retailers not to display overt sexual imagery - almost always associated with 'lads' mags' in mainstream retail outlets - in children's sight. The campaign was never about re-categorising gay lifestyle magazines or calling for innocuous editions of Attitude to be hidden away.

We are absolutely delighted that Sainsburys, Morrisons, Waitrose, BP*, ASDA, The Co-operative Group and Tesco have all pledged to support our campaign to keep lad mags out of children's view, in all their stores.

It's great news that these high-street stores are responding to parents' concerns, and taking action. Frustratingly, though, WHSmith haven't signed up. They're arguing that a shelf height of 1.2m (equivalent to that of an eight-year-old child) is a sufficient barrier - even though other retailers have clearly succeeded in taking further action.

The National Federation of Retail Newsagents also felt unable to support our campaign - it says it cannot ensure that its members take the necessary action. Since individual newsagents were identified as the biggest offenders in our survey, you might like to contact your local newsagents about your concerns. This could be the most effective way to bring about changes in their display policies, so in case you're pressed for time, here's a letter template for you to use or adapt.

UPDATE: We're very pleased that the Bailey Review, commissioned by the government to look into the sexualisation and commercialisation of children, has echoed our call for lad's mags to be displayed out of children's sight.  We'll update you when we know whether the government plans to accept the report's recommendations.

For more information on how you can help locally, visit the Child Eyes website and find out how you can start your own campaign or sign their petition.


Here's the text of the original press release about the campaign:

Mumsnet calls for retailers to keep 'lads' mags' out of children's sight

There is widespread discomfort about the way retailers display magazines and newspapers that carry adult sexual images on their front covers. Nine out of ten respondents to a Mumsnet survey said that they do not want their children to see these images. 82% had seen sexually explicit covers displayed where children could see them, often on the lower shelves of newsprint displays.

'I once had to explain to my eight-year-old daughter why there were two naked ladies (doing Lord only knows what) on a magazine cover placed right by the queue for the till. I'd only gone in to the shop to buy some milk!' (Survey respondent)

'I believe that sexual images should be for people who want to see them and who are old enough to consent. Anyone can do anything with other consenting adults.' (Survey respondent)

The worst offenders included local newsagents (cited by 76%), motorway service stations and petrol garages (52%), and WHSmith (31%). 68% said that it affected their overall perception of the stores in question.

Building on the momentum of Mumsnet's 'Let Girls be Girls' campaign, in which Mumsnet successfully challenged retailers to ensure that their clothing ranges do not exploit or play upon children's sexuality, Mumsnet will now be asking retailers to ensure that adult material is not displayed where children can see it, either by placing it on the top shelf or by using opaque covers to conceal the images.

The emphasis will be on asking retailers to take responsibility for their products, rather than on prescriptive solutions. Mumsnetters have clearly indicated that primary school-age children should not have to navigate adult sexual imagery every time they visit a shop.

Some retailers already have a blanket policy of keeping these titles behind modesty covers, or otherwise out of children's sight, and have told us that this does not affect their sales or draw customer complaints. A voluntary code of conduct for independent news retailers recommends that such titles are displayed in a way that prevents children seeing them, but anecdotal evidence suggests that this is rarely adhered to. Mumsnet believes that the head offices of retail chains should issue clear instructions on this matter, rather than leaving it to the discretion of individual store managers.

'I object to the fact that I don't have a choice about whether my children see these images.' (Survey respondent)

When asked which publications regularly use cover images that are inappropriate for children, 81% cited Nuts; 76% cited Zoo; 65% cited Loaded; 62% cited the Daily Sport and 59% the Sunday Sport.


Full quotes from retailers

A company spokesperson for Sainsburys said:

We know that this is an important issue for many of our shoppers and this is why we were one of the first retailers to introduce modesty covers back in 2006. We hope that other retailers follow Sainsbury's lead in signing up to Mumsnet's campaign.

Morrisons, which had a pre-existing policy of using modesty covers for lads' mags, will continue to do so and pledged its support for the campaign.

A spokesperson from Waitrose said:

Waitrose stock a very limited selection of Men's Lifestyle Magazines, and in support of Mumsnet's campaign, on the occasion that the publications feature covers that could be considered controversial, we would ask that the publisher polybag or wrap them.

ASDA has ordered compulsory 'modesty boards' for all its stores, and has also changed its policy so that men's lifestyle publishers can no longer pay to have their publications displayed at the front of stores. Its spokesperson said:

Asda is proud to be a longstanding supporter of the Let Girls Be Girls campaign as we take our commitments as a family retailer extremely seriously. We are doing everything we can to keep men's weeklies out of the sight of children by removing them from prominent displays and concealing covers with 'modesty boards'.

Tesco said:

Last year, we introduced a trial in more than 100 stores which put these titles at the back of the top shelf, obscuring their front covers with other magazines. We are pleased with the success of this trial and are now rolling this out across all Tesco stores. We are already reviewing the use of bagging and 'modesty units' where these niche magazines are concerned.

A spokesperson from the Co-operative Group said:

We are happy to sign up to Mumsnet's campaign on 'Lads Mags'. Plans for our newspaper and magazine fixtures will be issued to all stores in April to reinforce our policy. Lads' mags will always be merchandised on the top tier of all fixtures and be overlapped to avoid overt display of sexual images. The Daily Sport will be merchandised with the back page on display.

A spokesperson for the NFRN (National Federation of Retail Newsagents) said:

I regret that the NFRN is not in a position to sign up to the Mumsnet pledge; this is simply because we are not a retailer ourselves but an employers' association representing independent retail newsagents who are all owners of their own businesses, and, as we have no legal powers of enforcement, we are unable to commit their allegiance to the pledge. Having said that, we do recommend to our members that they adopt a family-friendly policy for the display of adult and lads' mags titles, which includes keeping them away from children's titles and above children's eye level.

A spokesperson for WHSmith said:

We have a strict display policy in place that requires men's lifestyle magazine titles be displayed at minimum height of 1.2m, equivalent to the average adult chest/shoulder height. This policy applies to all our stores, in both high street and travel locations, and regular updates are issued to stores to remind them of the importance of compliance with our policy. The policy requires men's lifestyle magazines be displayed away from children's or women's magazines, and away from other product ranges which children may be shopping for, e.g. toys and stationery. In addition we work closely with the magazine publishers to ensure that their products meet the expectations of our customers. Where we receive customer complaints about an issue in a certain publication, WHSmith commits to raise these concerns directly with the publisher.

Although we do not currently have any plans to make further changes to the way we display these titles, the feedback from the Mumsnet survey is valuable to us as we try to strike the right balance in meeting the needs of all our customers. 


BP has pledged to take action in the 350 stores that are owned and operated by BP, or owned and franchised by BP. However, it will not be able to ensure that the same measures are taken in independently-owned stories on BP sites.


Last updated: over 5 years ago