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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Playboy's 'Lifestyle' Challenges

When a militia officer recently confiscated Russian-language Playboy magazines from a kiosk in St. Petersburg and fined the vendor, it sent a brief chill through Playboy's Russian operation.

For the moment, at least, the flap appears to have more to do with the traditional Moscow-St. Petersburg political rivalry than questions about press freedom or the magazine's sexual content.

But it nonetheless points up problems with distribution and marketing that often confront foreign media trying to sell their publications and brand-name goods in Russia.

In this case, St. Petersburg contends that an "all-Russia" ruling out of Moscow sanctioning Playboy as a "lifestyle" magazine and not an erotic or pornographic publication simply doesn't apply in the Venice of the North.

Christie Hefner, the director of Playboy Enterprises, said the company hopes to resolve the dispute soon in meetings with St. Petersburg's new governor.

For Playboy's consumer-goods business, though, the main problem remains the lack of infrastructure, or "developing the mechanism for bringing products to market," Hefner said Friday at a presentation to marketing executives.

"It makes us less inclined to go after a partner for that business in Russia, as opposed to expanding in Europe or in Latin America or the Far East," she said. "Even if we found the best Russian partner in the world to make Playboy clothes or jewelry, how would we get it to the stores?"

Playboy may open its own retail storefront here, as some other brand-name consumer-goods companies have done. "That's a possibility for us," Hefner said. "We have done it in the Far East, in China and in Japan, and not surprisingly for some of the same reasons."

Russian Playboy is published by Independent Media, the parent company of The Moscow Times and The St. Petersburg Times.