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Long considered more affluent than the mainstream, the gay market has been pursued by high-end brands such as Gucci fashion, Waterford crystal and Movado watches. New research suggests those consumers may be closer to average incomes.

According to a new study by researcher Greenfield Online, Westport, Conn., and gay marketing consultancy Spare Parts, New York, average yearly household income among lesbians and gays is $57,300. That figure collected in July is in line with the $52,000 annual income uncovered by research conducted online in April by Georgia Tech Graphics Visualization & Usability Center.


The new income data differ from a gay market survey by Simmons Market Research Bureau conducted in late 1996 that found 28.5% of gay and lesbian household incomes exceeded $50,000 while 21% surpassed $100,000 annually.

Greenfield found only 11% of gay households attained the latter income level, equal to the general market in the Georgia Tech study.

The gay community is "only marginally more affluent-not significantly more-than the average," said Sue Hines, product manager of syndicated studies for Greenfield.

She added that "disposable income" wasn't surveyed, but said it will be in the future in the ongoing, quarterly study.

The Greenfield survey also found lesbians and gays to be more settled than previously thought. Thirty-nine percent of respondents answered that they live in a domestic partnership, compared to 44% of the general population who are married.


Such downscaling of the market and evidence of nesting could be behind the entry of more common household products advertising directed to the market.

Chesebrough-Ponds' Mentadent toothpaste became the first toothpaste to run an ad in gay media, for the new Crystal Ice line extension. The first pet food ad in Out broke in the October issue, from Nature's Recipe Pet Foods.


Over-the-counter pain relievers are starting to test the waters as well. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. began running Excedrin ads on gay Web site PlanetOut (planetout.com) recently, and an ad from McNeil Consumer Products Co. for its Motrin IB appeared in the guidebook for 1998's San Francisco Gay Pride Parade.

Industry experts say soft-drink and beauty-care marketers also are sizing up the market.

"Package-goods folks are in a wonderful position" to enter the market since there are so few competitors, said Scott Seitz, a partner at Spare Parts.

The Greenfield survey asked brand and media preferences as well, finding analgesic preferences mirrored the general population, with McNeil's Tylenol and American Home Products Corp.'s Advil ranking No. 1 and No. 2 in preference, respectively.

Among respondents to automotive questions, 51% planned to buy a car in the next six months; General Motors Corp. was the top choice for the purchase (20%), followed by Chrysler Corp. (11%), Ford Motor Co. (10%) and Toyota Motor Sales USA (7%).

ABC ranked as the favorite TV network. Also, 27% of lesbians and gays aren't exposed to gay media.


Tom Wilson, president of Wilson Media, New York, which handles marketing to gays for Glaxo Wellcome and Kobrand Corp. brands, said males in general have been undermarketed to for household goods.

"If companies have gone so far as identifying the male market as a niche, they'll have to do the gay market, too," he said Gay readers helped fuel the successful arrivals of magazines such as Men's Journal and Men's Health.

According to Mr. Wilson's studies, also conducted online, news-weeklies and radio are strong in the market, he said.

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