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[8 comments]

Beach Bodies-Themed Tabloid Pulled from Checkout Lane

December 28, 2012

Loblaws in Canada removed a copy of the National Enquirer from some of its stores after a local schoolteacher's rant about its "Best and Worst Beach Bodies" cover story created a stir on Facebook.

In an "open letter" to Loblaws that had been shared more than 14,000 times on Facebook (with 66 'likes'), Brandon Field, a teacher based in eastern Newfoundland, noted in early December that the Dec. 3rd National Enquirer issue displayed on its cover numerous photos of female celebrities with captions such as "Beauty, blubber and cellulite," "Belly disaster" and "Larger than life."

"More and more, we are seeing the detrimental effects of bullying in our school system," wrote Mr. Field in the letter. "These magazines, which are displayed prominently at every checkout, are a very real form of bullying. What's more, they further perpetuate the idea that women should have flawless bodies, thereby exacerbating the problem of negative body image, particularly among female youths, but also among all sexes and age groups."

He added, "As a schoolteacher, how am I to demonstrate to my students the importance of treating others with respect when everywhere they look society is sending a message to the contrary?"

According to Global News, Mark Boudreau, Loblaws' director of corporate affairs for the Atlantic Region, responded to Mr. Field's letter by removing the publication from the company's stores in the Newfoundland region. He also said that while sales performance and popularity are factors in deciding which magazines to sell, the company is sensitive to offending customers.

"We are mindful of the type and quality of magazines that appear on our racks, and we do take proactive measures," Mr. Boudreau wrote. "For example, we have advised certain publishers to bag their magazines to reduce the likelihood of potentially offensive material and we work [with] our wholesale distributor to provide an advanced warning whenever an authorized magazine is about to be released that is in controversial taste. We then review the cover and make an appropriate decision."

The Huffington Post noted that a 2010 study published by Girl Scouts and the Dove Self-Esteem Fund found that nine out of ten teenage girls feel the fashion industry and/or the media puts intense pressure on them to be thin. Nearly half of the women surveyed (47 percent) felt that only the most attractive women are portrayed in popular culture.

The Huffington Post also noted that publications like Vogue and Seventeen have pledged to showcase healthier depictions of women's bodies.

FINANCIALS:     [TSE:L] [ ]

Discussion Questions:

Have tabloid covers generally become more distasteful and even harmful to teens over the years? How much responsibility does the retailer have in censoring magazines deemed offensive to some?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

Should Loblaws have kept, covered or pulled the 'offensive' tabloid issue from its checkout lanes?

Comments:

Removing the National Enquirer from stores in Newfoundland is noteworthy? Get serious. As any Canadian will tell you that is not such a big deal.

The issue re bullying is very worthy of discussion though. But the cover of one magazine showing obese Americans in bathing suits they shouldn't wear even in the privacy of their own homes isn't the issue. This whole country is locked into attack and bully-mode: from our government to our churches to our schools to our workplaces. The country is pretty well directionless and angry at itself because of it. But we don't look inwards, we don't want to think in new ways. We prefer to attack each other and everyone else. Quite sad really.

Let's continue to pray and hope that somehow through divine intervention a transformation will occur to launch us into a truly new year.

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Ian Percy, President, The Ian Percy Corporation

Tantalizing titles catch shoppers' interest and generate sales. Offensive titles may do the same unless they are so offensive that consumers are offended, do not purchase the item, and may react against the organization selling the item. Each retailer needs to make its own decisions based upon its customer base.

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Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D., President, Global Collaborations, Inc.

A thoughtful response by Loblaws, to be sure. But, I doubt many school kids are reading the Enquirer, or paying much attention to it. And, if they are, it is not just this cover that could be deemed offensive, but pretty much all the Enquirer and other tabloid covers, all the time. What to do about it? I think the proverbial toothpaste is out of the tube at this point—has this teacher seen what's on TV and the Internet?

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Al McClain, CEO, Founder, RetailWire.com

Focus on bigger fish. National Enquirer is not exactly the fashion guide nor the even close to the "source" of the image and self-esteem issues our youth faces. Being fit, "skinny," attractive and all that is a female and male problem. Stories covered in media of young adult males impacting their health through excessive exercise, poor dietary practice and taking "speed"/supplements.

The magazine loves this type of publicity—no publicity is bad publicity. They say please, thank you and make more of it.

David Slavick, Director, Loyalty & Retention, FTD.com

If you want media that promotes high self-esteem for the average young (or old) person, you'd have to purge the racks of the tabloids, the "women's" magazines, the "laddie" titles and Esquire on a bad month.

Not to say the Canadian educator is wrong, just to say one should be consistent.

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Ryan Mathews, Founder, ceo, Black Monk Consulting

So Loblaws (which coincidentally I only learned yesterday how to pronounce correctly) surrendered to the intimidation of some crank who was concerned about—yes—bullying...the "Irony of the Year" award, for sure.

'notcom'

Loblaws, as with all retailers, should have non-negotiable standards. Congratulations to them for saying they don't want distasteful pictures or messaging at the check-out line.

Sadly, they shouldn't need an excuse. I'd prefer an executive simply announce that customers/visitors to their stores include young children and that anything that might be considered offensive won't be tolerated.

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Christopher P. Ramey, President, Affluent Insights

Tabloids are just for entertainment and not meant to be taken seriously. Just about everything is going to offend someone at one time or another. The retailer's job is to sell products, which includes magazines. Those who are offended should just boycott the magazine.

David Livingston, Principal, DJL Research

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