business news in context, analysis with attitude

USA Today reports that “the market for gay and lesbian consumers is highly coveted and hitting the mainstream in a huge way” as marketers come to the conclusion that “the 16 million gay consumers age 18 and older in the USA boast $641 billion in buying power.”

The era during which gay citizens were segregated from the rest of the population seems to be virtually over, in part because public mores have changed and in part because economic realities have made it clear that many gay consumers have significant amounts of disposable income. “Millions are smart, technology-savvy consumers and partners with dual household incomes and no kids,” USA Today writes.

And yet, at the same time, marketers are finding that there are tremendous similarities between gay and straight consumers – which seems like an obvious statement, but one that it has taken marketers a long time to come around to.

USA Today writes: “At Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, a San Francisco-based chain of boutique hotels, consumer research has found that straight and lesbian businesswomen and vacationers share similar values, lifestyles and hobbies, Chief Operating Officer Niki Leondakis says. They like spas and fitness offerings, classy interior décor and personal service from friendly staffers. They prefer to spend on companies that support women and give to non-profits. Also important: personal safety and good security at hotels.”

That’s not to suggest that the path is always smooth for companies showing an interest in gay consumers. “Companies that cater to gays and lesbians still risk a backlash from fundamentalist religious groups, which have called for boycotts of companies that market to gays, donate to gay non-profits or portray gays as ‘normal’ families in ads,” USA Today writes.

As reported elsewhere on MNB this morning, even Wal-Mart is finding this out. The company recently decided to join the Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, which led the Missouri Baptist Convention to warn the retailer that if it does not break its tie to the gay organization, a boycott of Wal-Mart’s stores will be initiated. The warning was issued after what was called a “heated debate” by the leaders of the organization, some of whom wanted an immediate boycott.
KC's View:
The only way the path to tolerance is going to become clearer and better paved is if enough people and companies walk it. That’s not to say that there won’t be obstacles and issues raised along the way, but it’s the only way.

We give credit to companies like Wal-Mart and Walt Disney and others that seem to understand this. And they give cover to smaller, more vulnerable organizations that want to walk the walk.