Peoples Drug Stores will stop selling adult magazines at all 810 of its stores in the next few weeks because of customer complaints and changing standards of morality, a company spokesman said yesterday.
"Times are changing and we have to change with them," said Joseph A. Pollard, vice president of public relations for the corporation, which has its headquarters in Alexandria.
The decision by Peoples was the latest victory for campaigners against adult magazines such as Playboy and Penthouse, who have picketed and written letters to argue that community standards of decency should ban the sale of such publications.
High's Dairy Stores stopped selling the magazines at the beginning of the year, according to several area store managers and Richard J. Enrico, founder of Citizens Against Pornography, which lobbies to stop such magazine sales in Northern Virginia.
Corporate officials of High's, which has more than 300 stores in the mid-Atlantic states, did not return repeated phone calls.
Enrico, whose group claims several thousand members, including Virginia Gov. Gerald L. Baliles, said Citizens Against Pornography had a major role in persuading the two chains to drop the magazines. "It's a tremendous victory and I just thank God for it," he said.
Enrico said his group is trying to persuade Drug Fair to end "pornographic magazine" sales at its locations, and "we believe Drug Fair is starting to cooperate with us." Officials of Drug Fair, which is owned by Sherwin-Williams Paints, had no immediate comment.
Peoples will stop selling the adult magazines at its 400 stores from Pennsylvania to North Carolina this weekend, Pollard said, and will add the rest of its stores -- some operating under different names in Ohio, Georgia and Pennsylvania -- in the next few weeks.
Adult magazines account for $3 million to $4 million of the chain's annual sales -- less than 0.5 percent of revenues, Pollard said. Pollard said Peoples believes it will recoup the revenue with increased business from customers who had stopped shopping at the stores because they were offended by adult magazines on display.
Pollard said families increasingly account for Peoples' business and the chain, which sells the magazines only to customers 18 and over, employs many clerks who are 17 to 19 years of age.
In addition, according to Sheldon W. Fantle, Peoples' chairman, president and chief executive officer, "We believe the social mores in the communities in which we do business have evolved from the freer thinking 1970s to a social structure with greater respect for fundamental traditions and values." He made the comments in a letter to Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman John F. Herrity announcing the company's decision.
Fantle said customers who want magazines such as Playboy and Penthouse can buy them elsewhere or subscribe by mail.
Henry E. Hudson, the Arlington County prosecutor who is chairman of the U.S. attorney general's Commission on Pornography, said the panel had heard testimony about scattered successful attempts nationwide to get adult magazines off store shelves. He described it as "an evolving citizen concern" but not yet a trend.
In Richmond, the governor's press secretary, Chris Bridge, said Baliles had signed a membership card for Enrico's organization last May, while he was state attorney general, and wrote a letter that said in part: "I appreciate the involvement of a number of Northern Virginians in preserving some fundamentally important values in the literature made available for public distribution."
Bridge said Baliles believes "it is up to each community to define those standards of decency" and was not stating that any particular magazine is obscene.