Kroger Allows GLBT Paper Back in Some Stores

Discussion
Jul 05, 2007

By George Anderson

When Kroger initially banned the Out & About newspaper from its free racks in 34 stores in the Nashville, Tenn. market, the grocery chain said it had a policy against giving space to publications looking to promote “political, religious or other specific agendas.”

Out & About is a publication that is focused on delivering content of interest to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) individuals. When it first appeared in Kroger stores, the company received complaints from individuals who found its presence on the free publication racks to be offensive.

Members of the GLBT community and their supporters began a campaign to try and get individuals to boycott Kroger and Harris Teeter (Three Harris Teeter stores also pulled Out & About) after it was announced the publication was being removed.

After its initial statement regarding the promotion of agendas, Kroger also claimed the distributor of Out & About, DistribuTech, had failed to follow established policy for newspapers and magazines to be placed on the free publication rack.

Kroger said its action was not unusual. In a statement published in The Tennessean, the company said, “As we have done elsewhere, Kroger suspended distribution until the agreed-upon steps were followed. In this case, it resulted in the return of the paper to some stores in the Nashville area.”

While Out & About is not being placed back on the racks of all 34 Kroger stores, supporters seem pleased with the grocery chain’s actions.

Christopher Sanders, president of the Tennessee Equality Project, said, “This compromise is a victory for good business, dialogue and cooperation. The GLBT community negotiated from a position of strength and that contributed to the solution. We now hope Harris Teeter will do the right thing.”

Harris Teeter has said the company has requested copies of Out & About and will make a decision soon.

Out & About management is pleased with the placement, believing it will be available where there is a significant demand for the publication.

Jerry Jones, publisher of Out & About, said he never really wanted to be in all the Kroger stores to start with.

“Our contract with DistribuTech required us to purchase stores by the district instead of being able to choose the stores we felt would have the highest pickup rate,” Mr. Jones said. “We’re extremely pleased that Kroger could work with DistribuTech to place us in the stores that we have identified in zip codes where our readership is high.”

Lynn Marmer, group vice president of corporate affairs for Kroger, said in a company press release that, “Having free special interest publications, for example for seniors, families with young children or the GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) community, is a way of serving local interests.”

Discussion Question: What was your initial reaction to hearing that Kroger had pulled a newspaper written for a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individual readership? How do retailers navigate a business path between consumer constituencies that are so often at odds? What final grade would you give Kroger for the way it dealt with the Out & About issue?

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7 Comments on "Kroger Allows GLBT Paper Back in Some Stores"


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M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
14 years 10 months ago

If the KKK wanted to distribute free literature in Kroger stores, would they be allowed? Heck no, because most customers would find it offensive. This is understandable, and Kroger would have drawn a line on acceptable publications. But, what if a few Kroger stores were located in areas populated by white supremacists? Would the (fictional) KKK publication be appropriate in those stores? Should Kroger create gaps in the line they’ve drawn? And, how would Kroger really know which stores had the most white supremacist shoppers? There are no statistics for this, just as there are no statistics for determining which stores would be best for distributing “Out & About.”

David Livingston
Guest
14 years 10 months ago

Ed Dennis has the right idea. Limit it to the top 3 most popular. Or require the paper to rent space in their store–at a very high price so they won’t want to put their paper in the store. It really comes down to what the customer wants. Most likely the paper will be popular in certain parts of town and not in others.

Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
Guest
14 years 10 months ago

Consumers identify with a wide variety of groups and have an even wider variety of interests. In today’s marketplace of fragmentation and personalization, it will be extremely difficult to meet the needs of all groups. As a result, requests to display information from one group is likely to offend another group. Decisions to acknowledge and/or promote specific holidays is likely to offend groups of consumers. This situation is not likely to change.

Companies will need to have policies in place for how they decide what events, requests, or activities they will support or what requirements groups need to meet. Ignoring these issues and not instituting policies leaves a company vulnerable to accusations and actions from unhappy groups.

Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
14 years 10 months ago

I would suggest that Kroger do a usage survey and allow only the top 5 “free” publications. I would further recommend that boxes be developed for these publications that have latches that require two hands to open. This will keep all but the most inquisitive youngsters from getting these publications and reduce litter as the kids never take them home anyway. The key to control is limiting the number of publications allowed and restricting it to the most popular ones. If free speech is an issue you can point out that anyone may speak on the court house steps and that a grocery store is a business and has no obligation to provide a political or lifestyle forum.

David Biernbaum
Guest
14 years 10 months ago

In terms of how retailers should navigate a business path between consumer constituencies and which news publications or other products they put out for free, I believe that in the end, Kroger took the rational course to provide the issue of Out & About in the right stores where it’s apposite for a significant portion of that particular store’s constituency and marketplace.

For maximum success, large retail chains need to be cognizant of how individual stores serve the specific needs and interests of unique groups of people and are looked upon to be one of the community’s central locations for providing certain services and conveniences to the public. In the end, this helps to build traffic, loyalty, and community.

Thaddeus Tazioli
Guest
Thaddeus Tazioli
14 years 10 months ago

Allocating space for free publications, posters, etc. is a form of philanthropy and fulfills a valuable and obligatory role that large retailers, especially supermarkets, have to the communities they serve. The key to navigating community support efforts is to have a clear policy that is consistently and fairly implemented. I think “all’s well that ends well” seems fitting enough for this situation.

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 10 months ago

Every store is constantly approached by people who want to put up posters, give away flyers and newspapers, and collect petition signatures and donations. So every store needs a simple policy or there’ll be resentment. Kroger acted quickly, which prevented a problem from mushrooming. Free newspapers attract traffic. Barnes & Noble, Borders, and every other bookstore donate display space. No retailer wants to get caught in the middle of free speech disputes, not just GLBT issues.

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