From the “Bowing to stupid public pressure” file

Wal-Mart Pulls Racy Magazines from Store Shelves
NEW YORK (Reuters) – First Sheryl Crow had to go. Then Barbie’s pregnant friend was shunned. Now, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. the world’s biggest retailer, is axing three men’s magazines known for cover photos of scantily-clad models.
Wal-Mart has pulled Maxim and Stuff magazines, published by Dennis Publishing, and Emap Metro LLC’s FHM magazine from its shelves, saying some customers were uncomfortable with their covers.
“Wal-Mart has been the most notorious for refusing to carry, for example, music with warning labels,” said Marjorie Heins, director of the Free Expression Policy Project based in New York. “Some of these large chains seem to have their marketing decisions driven by ideological rather than truly financial motivations.”
In 1996, the retailer refused to sell an album from Sheryl Crow because it contained a lyric talking about children buying guns at Wal-Mart. Last year, it yanked from its shelves Barbie’s long-time pal Midge — a married character doll that featured a stomach with a curled-up baby inside.
The decision to stop carrying the magazines was made last week, company spokesman Tom Williams said. Wal-Mart is the top U.S. seller of products ranging from dog food to diamonds with sales of $244.5 billion in the fiscal year ended January 2003.
All three magazines have seen their U.S. circulation soar, helped by their eye-catching covers and short, cheeky and sex-oriented content.
“We carried those magazines initially in response to customer requests, but we have had customers around the country that have consistently been telling us they’re uncomfortable with us carrying these magazines,” Williams said.
Maxim magazine has a circulation of 2.5 million, with about 900,000 sold via newsstands. Stuff magazine has a circulation of 1.2 million, with about 450,000 sold on stands.
A spokesman for Dennis Publishing said sales of the publisher’s magazines via Wal-Mart accounted for only 1 percent of total circulation.
FHM, or For Him Magazine, has a circulation of 1.1 million. The title was taken off Wal-Mart newsstands in October 2001.
“They put us back on the newsstand with our January and February 2003 issue,” a spokeswoman for FHM told Reuters. The magazine has since been removed again.
“Our sales figures at Wal-Mart this year are not significant, only 1 percent of our total circulation,” the spokeswoman said.
Racy covers on magazines racks are not hard to find. Recent covers from music magazine Rolling Stone — which is sold at Wal-Mart — featured singer Christina Aguilera wearing nothing but a guitar and heavy make up.
“We are dismayed at the double standard Wal-Mart has set with magazines,” Dennis Publishing said in a statement later on Tuesday.
“We hope Wal-Mart will realize that the front covers and contents of Maxim and Stuff are no more provocative than those of other men’s magazines such as GQ, Esquire, Details, and Rolling Stone — and usually less provocative than the covers and contents of many women’s magazines,” the publisher added.