The Co-operative Retail Trading Group – the buying group for 18 co-op societies across the UK, including the Co-operative Group – has warned publishers to cover up their lads’ mags or face being delisted.

It has given publishers of Front, Loaded, Nuts and Zoo until 9 September to deliver the magazines in pre-sealed bags designed to obscure the front cover.

Lads’ mags have long been a contentious issue in the industry, and the Co-op said the move was because of growing concern from members, customers and colleagues “over exposure of children to the overt sexual images on these front covers which, despite the retailer’s best efforts, are still sometimes visible in-store”.

The Sport newspaper has already agreed to deliver its editions to Co-op stores in modesty bags from 9 September.

“As a community-based retailer we have listened to the concerns of our customers and members, many of whom say they object to their children being able to see overt sexual images in our stores,” said Co-op Group retail CEO Steve Murrells.  

“While we have tried to mitigate the likelihood of young children seeing the images  with a number of measures in-store, the most effective way of doing this is for these magazines to be put in individual, sealed modesty bags.

“As an interim measure, we have introduced our own opaque screens on shelf to reinforce our existing policy limiting the display of such material.  The publishers of these magazines now have until 9 September to start providing their own modesty bags, after which any lads’ magazine which does not have the relevant bag will not be supplied in our stores.”

Jo Swinson, minister for women and equalities, called for other retailers to follow the Co-op.

“Many parents aren’t comfortable with the way that sexualised imagery has become like wallpaper - everywhere from the bus stop to the corner shop,” she said.

“Exposing children to lewd pictures that portray women as sex objects is not appropriate. That’s why The Co-operative’s decision to implement the Bailey review recommendation for publications with overtly sexual images on the cover to be displayed and sold in modesty bags is very welcome.”