Shooter power forces WH Smith to lift age ban
WH Smith has quietly overturned a ban on under-14s buying shooting magazines only a month after it came into effect.
The age restriction, imposed without any prior consultation or warning, also forced adults to face an age prompt when buying magazines at automatic checkouts.
The retailer then faced a backlash from the shooting community that forced it to rethink the policy, with some 12,000 angry shooters signing a petition against the ban.
WH Smith said the restriction was not a political move and had been put in place as a result of age-restricted ‘cover mount’ free gifts such as knives – even though the newsagent had been subject to a pressure campaign from an animal rights group shortly before instating the age ban.
No age-restricted cover-mounted gifts have ever appeared on the front of a shooting title, and WH Smith’s PR department suggesting this to be the case showed that the £1.2 billion retailer lacked cohesion, clarity and an understanding of the facts in relation to the policy.
WH Smith failed to inform shooting magazine publishers either before or after enacting the restriction. Blaze Publishing, which publishes 10 newstrade titles including shooting magazines such as Sporting Rifle, Clay Shooting and Airgun Shooter, spearheaded a campaign to overturn the ill-conceived policy after receiving reports from concerned readers. Blaze contacted its distributor COMAG along with other publishers and shooting organisations such as BASC, all of whom formed a united front in fighting the restriction.
Blaze Publishing’s Wes Stanton said: “Thanks to an overwhelming strength of feeling from magazine-buying shooters, WH Smith has had no choice but to overturn its policy. Clearly WH Smith has been embarrassed by the furore around the initial decision, and in our face-to-face private meetings at board level, agreed that it had made a serious error.