The lifestyle catalogue Chums featured womens and menswear, bedding, towels and mobility aids – but towards the back were several pages of adult products such as pornography DVDs and sexual aids including a lifelike vibrating doll and “enlarger pumps” for men.
Advertising watchdogs banned the catalogue after receiving complaints from a number of people that the products were offensive to unsuspecting readers.
The Liverpool-based firm behind the catalogue – whose website says one of its bestsellers are Crimplene trousers – said nearly two-thirds of its customers were male with an average age of 75 and over.
As the business has expanded, the adult range was launched in late 2012 in a smaller publication and, due to its success, a greater variety of adult products were offered by the company, it said. Its catalogue “focused on personal care and stress relief, avoiding overtly pornographic products” and the range was then included in the lifestyle catalogue.
It “received a positive response from customers and the products became some of the best-selling”.
The firm argued it “had tapped into a market for those who wanted personal satisfaction and comfort at a later stage in life” and “some of their older customers would not have access to or the confidence to use the internet to purchase such items”.
The catalogue offered its customers a “convenient way of ordering the products discreetly and without having to leave their house”.
A statement from Chums said it never intended to harm or upset any customers.
However, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled the catalogue “required very careful targeting to ensure that it was distributed responsibly and to avoid causing offence to unsuspecting recipients”.
It said the firm’s entire mailing list “would receive the catalogue without being alerted about its adult content”.
An ASA spokesman said: “We concluded that the catalogue was likely to cause serious or widespread offence when addressed to a general audience and had therefore not been adequately targeted.
“The ad must not appear in its current form. We told Chums Ltd to ensure that future marketing communications were not likely to cause serious or widespread offence.”
Chums is a privately owned, independent mail-order company. Graham Rubin, the managing director, developed the mail-order business 30 years ago after many years’ experience in the manufacture of trousers, according to the company’s website.
The website adds: “Well over one million customers have now enjoyed buying direct from Chums since those early days, many of whom will have started by firstly trying our fantastic value for money Crimplene trousers (which are still one of our best-sellers) or summer cotton trousers or Farah-branded trousers.”