NORRISTOWN, Pa. -- Similar to a move earlier this month by Kroger, Cincinnati, Genuardi's Family Markets here began blocking last week what it called "offensive magazine covers and headlines."
The chain is going a step beyond Kroger and placing vinyl pocket placards over the front page of supermarket tabloid newspapers in addition to titles such as Cosmopolitan.
"Some Globe and Enquirer headlines can be annoying and offensive to some customers, and the front page of those issues will also get placards," John Stahl, Genuardi's director of general merchandise and health and beauty care told SN. "There are times when tabloids carry some pretty nasty headlines, although not every week."
The magazine blinders will be installed in all checkout lanes in Genuardi's 33 stores, the retailer said, and will be used on an as-needed basis to shield children from the sometimes sexually explicit headlines on many magazine covers.
While Genuardi's has not had many customer complaints about magazine covers, "we actually had planned to start blocking the covers of magazines with inappropriate pictures or headlines, but just never implemented it," Stahl said. He added that customer complaints to Genuardi's store managers started to pick up in January after the announcement then by Kroger that it would block magazine covers.
At Kroger, an opaque sheet obscures all but the top masthead with the Cosmo name. Titles in the Genuardi's fixtures are also visible. Because Cosmo "is one of our top five highest selling titles, we must be careful not to offend many of our customers who buy that magazine," Stahl stressed.
As is the case with other retailers, Genuardi's policy is to leave the decision of whether or not to block covers up to individual store managers. Until its newly adopted policy, Genuardi's store managers "used to take titles off racks that they felt were questionable," said Stahl. He acknowledged, however, that "giving store managers this authority can turn them into a censor, which opens another issue. There are customers that like and want to buy these magazines even though there are customers that find them objectionable."
Stahl said the retailer's move to block magazine covers may encourage "first amendment crusaders to probably come after us."
Blocking the covers is in keeping with Genuardi's "tradition of being a family-run and family-focused business," the company said in a press statement. "We are committed to providing the best possible shopping experiences for our customers," stressed president Charles Genuardi.
In addition to concealing covers, the chain started designating one "Family Friendly" checkout lane per store that will be free of toys, candy, "magazines with inappropriate covers and headlines and PC gaming magazines and books."
The Family Friendly checkout aisle is "intended to combat the often unavoidable distractions that many families face when bringing their children to supermarket checkout aisles" lined with these items, the company stated.