January 8, 2012

Shocking! Boots store displays adult toys close to healthcare products in full view of children

Boots has been criticised by parents for selling adult toys in its shops, within full view of children.

The chemists’ chain has prominently displayed a range of unpackaged sexual aids close to healthcare products such as reading glasses, blood-pressure monitors and pregnancy testing kits.

Customers have to walk past the sex aids in order to shop for shampoo, deodorants, toothpaste and sandwiches.

The sale of sex toys – recently launched in 1,200 of the firm’s 2,500 UK stores – is a far cry from the herbal medicines made by Boots founder John Boot in Nottingham  in 1849.

Boots insisted last night that customers had told the company they wanted to buy the range of sex toys – designed to improve ‘sexual wellbeing’. But the retail giant is facing a backlash.

Families said they were ‘shocked’ and ‘disgusted’ that the sex aids were on show, removed from packaging. By contrast, the Ann Summers sex-shop chain serves boxed sex aids only to those aged 18 or over in designated separate sections of its stores.

At Boots in Dartford, Kent, three types of sex aid were on display last week and placed on a shelf low enough for children to see.

Grandmother Julie Burgess, 43, a retail manager from Greenhithe, said: ‘I am appalled. It’s completely inappropriate. I’m shocked that a store like Boots is selling sex toys, let alone displaying them so openly.

‘My two children are grown up now, but I’ve got a little granddaughter and I certainly wouldn’t want to be walking her round Boots and having to explain what a sex toy is. If Boots really wants to sell them, they should be kept behind the counter with the medicines.’

And Scott Millins, 26, from Gravesend said: ‘It’s quite disgusting. I’ve got a nine-month-old baby boy and a three-year-old son and it wouldn’t be a problem now, but when my young boys are older, that’s definitely not the sort of thing I would want them to see. Children shouldn’t know about that sort of thing until they’re grown up and in a relationship with someone. It’s really not very good  at all.’

The display was headed ‘Sexual Wellbeing’ in large lettering with the words ‘Help you and your partner have a more positive sexual relationship’. Beneath each of the sex toys on display was a card detailing the toys’ features. Children passing the display for the £34.99 Durex Play Dream were able to read intimate details of how the product could be used. The sex toy earns purchasers 136 Boots loyalty points.

The Durex Play Discover, which costs the same and earns the same points, says it is ‘designed to inspire you to play and sensually explore your partner’s body from tip to toe’.

The cheaper Play Delight, at £9.99, with 36 Boots points, was on offer with a free £10 eye-test voucher.

Former Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe said: ‘Boots, which is a family store – and a very popular one at that – should adopt standards that  Ann Summers have been happy to adopt. That says it all.’

The sex toys are a dramatic change of policy for Boots. Seven years ago, the company scrapped plans to sell sex aids alongside toiletries over fears that stocking them could damage its brand. Yesterday, Boots said it had received four complaints.

A spokeswoman said: ‘We believe a healthy love life can improve overall health and wellbeing and our customers have told us that they would like to buy these products from us.

‘Approximately 1,200 stores stock these products and we have worked hard to ensure they are discreetly packaged and merchandised.

‘There are no laws restricting the sale of these products. However, if someone who looks under 16 tries  to buy such a product, Boots staff would use their discretion to decide whether it is suitable for them.’