WH Smith drops porn

Newsagent chain ditches top-shelf magazines but plays down moral backlash and cites less demand

Britain’s biggest newsagent chain, WH Smith, is dropping all pornographic titles from its high street stores because, it says, there is a lack of demand.

From now on customers wishing to buy Penthouse, Playboy, For Women, Mayfair and, bizarrely, Video & Satellite World, will have to order their copy in advance or shop elsewhere.

WH Smith denies the move is based on moral grounds. A spokeswoman says: “This is just part of the rationalisation of our lines. If we were censoring, we would delist them completely and people would not be able to order them.”

The chain has long been a target for anti-pornography groups like Campaign Against Pornography, which organised in-store demonstrations involving campaigners chaining themselves to shelves.

The newsagent says the pornographic titles will still be available at WH Smith concessions in airports and stations, which account for around 100 of the 550 WH Smith branches nationwide.

The retailer refuses to give sales figures for the five magazines, but titles are dropped if sales fail to justify shelf space.

About 1,500 newspaper and magazine titles are stocked at any one time.

Last year WH Smith’s news division, which distributes titles to newsagents, was forced to write to newsagents to clarify that they could refuse to stock top-shelf titles.

In a separate move, WH Smith plans to take on Boots by selling snacks and sandwiches in its stores. The snack division, called Express, is currently on trial in 11 stores.

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