Saucy Scarlet finds a place on Tesco's shelves at last

By Alyson Fixter

Tesco
appears to have made a U-turn on its decision not to stock saucy
women’s magazine Scarlet following media coverage of the independent
title’s battle to get on the supermarket’s shelves.

Insisting that it did not consider itself a “moral guardian” and was
happy to let customers make their own choices about the title, the
company announced this week that it would be listing the magazine,
edited by sex columnist Sarah Hedley, from May.

The magazine
claimed last month that it had been turned down by Tesco because its
mix of erotic fiction and cheeky sex features was considered “too rude”
by the family store.

But now the supermarket, which has been hit
by allegations of censorship in the past over its decision to
halfobscure the titillating covers of lads’

mags, is keen to deny that it ever rejected the title.

Jonathan
Church, external communications manager at Tesco, said: “Although we
don’t stock the magazine in Tesco stores, we intend to do so from next
May.

“It’s important to stress that we do not put ourselves up as
a moral guardian or censor because we believe customers should have a
choice as to what they buy.

“We are sensitive as to how we
display certain publications, with young families in mind, but will
always follow the principle of giving the customer the freedom to
choose.”

Gavin Griffiths, publisher of Scarlet, called the
decision “fantastic news”, but said he had been “baffled” by his
magazine’s difficulty in getting on to the shelves of supermarkets and
newsagents.

He added: “We don’t really understand why buyers are
so worried about erotic fiction when soft porn for men is available
everywhere.

“All we’re doing is selling fantasy. It’s just a bit on the fruity side, that’s all.

“We
certainly don’t exploit anyone or feature any porn, so morally I think
we have nothing to worry about. WH Smith has had the title since August
and hasn’t had one complaint.”

The Office of Fair Trading is
considering whether to recommend a full investigation into the market
dominance of supermarkets, so Tesco is keen to convince the watchdog
that it does not hold too much power over shopping choices,
particularly in the area of the press.

An OFT decision is also
due next year on whether the current magazine distribution chain must
be opened up to greater competition, with publishers expressing fears
that big supermarkets could develop even greater power over which
magazines and newspapers readers have access to.

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