CINCINNATI -- Kroger here has begun installing blinders to block front-cover headlines on Cosmopolitan magazine, a Hearst publication prominently displayed on checkout racks.
The chain began installing the new racks last week at its approximately 2,200 stores, "after we received numerous customer complaints across the country in all our KMAs regarding Cosmo headlines," a Kroger spokesman told SN.
The chain plans to have all the new racks up by Feb. 1. The new fixture features an opaque sheet that obscures all but the top masthead with the Cosmo name.
Kroger's action comes six months after Morality in Media, New York, had asked food chains across the nation to remove from checkout Cosmo and other magazines with cover teaser headlines "with lurid sexual content or cover up the raunchy headlines."
In a letter sent to Morality in Media in late December, Lynn Marmer, Kroger's group vice president for corporate affairs, said the chain had decided to install the blinders "after discussing the matter with the magazine distributor."
She noted the blinders are being arranged at checkout counters "so that the Cosmo masthead is visible, but the headlines are not."
Marmer added, "We believe this approach responds to the concerns raised by your organization, which we respect and understand."
Robert Peters, Morality in Media president called Kroger's decision to change the way it merchandises Cosmo and similar publications "gratifying. Every reasonable adult would agree that the monthly display of 'hot sex' tips on the front cover of Cosmo and Glamour are not suitable reading material for children."
He called for other retailers to "follow Kroger's example of acting in the interest of children and public decency."
However, a high volume ShopRite operator, Supermarket of Cherry Hill, Cherry Hill, N. J., did not endorse Kroger's move. "Magazines are one of many products that supermarkets carry, and consumers can decide for themselves to buy or not. And when you consider the kind of material available on the Internet, magazine headlines are nothing in comparison," said Steve Ravitz, president.
Morality in Media asserts that magazines that contain what it calls sexually titillating cover teaser headlines displayed at checkout lanes are unsuitable for children to see. "It is gratifying to learn that America's largest conventional supermarket chain agrees, at least with respect to Cosmo," said Peters.
"Kroger is the first major food chain that's agreed to our request," said Morality in Media spokesman Patrick McGrath. "Most chains that contacted us over the summer mostly discussed the issues; Kroger is really the first to take this major step, and we hope others make a similar commitment," he added.
Kroger maintains its action "won't hurt sales. We are still offering the magazine to customers who want it. And our policy has been to let each of our retail divisions make its own decisions about what merchandise to carry, based on what consumers in each market want," said Marmer.