WHSmith says it was forced to remove gay magazines from shelves in its Leamington Spa store because of shoplifters.

The retailer was condemned by Twitter users for apparently putting Attitude and Gay Times behind the counter, while leaving ‘lads mags’ on show.

In response, a WHSmith spokeswoman claimed that the gay magazines had been targeted by shoplifters.

She said: “WHSmith is committed to offering its customers choice and has the largest range of magazines on the High Street.

“Gay Times and Attitude, along with a small number of other magazines, were temporarily removed from the display shelves in the WHSmith store in Leamington Spa as a result of repeated incidents of theft in this store.

“This is an isolated case and all these titles are available on display within our extensive magazine range in all WHSmith High Street stores.”

Attitude editor Matthew Todd said: “WHSmith have a long history of supporting Attitude and GT and I’m glad this wasn’t anything sinister. I would have been surprised and upset if there was. I would have had to go somewhere else to get a large bar of Dairy Milk for a pound.”

A picture circulated on Twitter showed a plastic sheet in place of the magazines which told customers to ask for them at the counter.