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Homo Economics
How big is the gay market?
What we do know

( These articles were written around the year 2000; find more recent research here )

Homo Economics

Recent research points to the fact that the gay population is merely a slice of a representative cross section of the general population, with varying income, education, political and lifestyle preferences. However there are certain exceptions and some key differences which affect purchasing habits and consequently marketing decisions. For example:

- They are drawn to live in gay-friendly urban areas (eg London, Manchester and Brighton)

- Because they are less likely to have dependent children, gay men and lesbians have a higher disposable income than the average

- Representation in the socio-economic groups A.B.C.1 is higher than the national average.

How big is the gay market?

( Find more recent research here - USA | UK )

We don't know. Thanks to prejudice and homophobia many gay people are still 'in the closet'. And because they are drawn to metropolitan areas recent studies indicate that while 11 per cent of the population of London may have had homosexual experience, in rural areas the figure could be only 1 per cent.

In an article in Gay Men Fighting AIDS (GMFA)'s F**K Sheet (July 1996 - GMFA telephone 020 7738 6872) Peter Scott discusses various research: "The most important study that shed light on the geographical distribution of gay men in the UK is the National Surey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (NSSAL) which comprised a radomly selected representative sample of almost 19,000 men and women aged 16-59 years living in Great Britain (Wellings 1994)." Overall they found that only 1-2 per cent had had a same sex partner in the last year, whereas in London 12 per cent of men had had homosexual contact, the result of gay men moving to London from the rest of the UK because London offered 'greater social opportunities and more accepting cultural environments'.

Peter Scott's own survey of How Far Will You Go (HFWYG) with Peter Kelley interviewed 1001 men from the London gay scene and found that 15 per cent were visitors to London, and of residents only 22 per cent had grown up in London. Around 80 per cent of gay men sampled grew up elsewhere, suggesting a massive gay immigration into London.

"If these studies are representative, they suggest that half or more of the UK's adult gay population may be resident in London."

American research has found similar 'metropolitan' clustering. One study (Michael 1994) found that in the largest 12 cities in the USA, 9 per cent of the male sample identified as gay, whereas only 1 per cent did in rural areas.

What we do know

Some indicators as to how the gay market is becoming easier to target, as the confidence of the gay community increases:

In a 2000 survey at London Mardi Gras:

  • Average income was £22,130 compared to £19,400 for the general population.
  • Gay men have a 'more youthful' lifestyle than the national average, with 42% visiting a nightclub at least once a month compared to 12% for the general population, and club-visiting does not decline as dramatically with age.
  • 77% of respondents had Internet access at home and or work, compared to 26% of the general population.
  • 72% had a credit card and 62% a debit card (general population 43% and 49%)
  • 72% had at least one holiday a year compared to 61% national average
  • 46% had two or more holidays compared to 30% national average
  • Only 3% used a gay travel company, 11% the internet, 11% booked independently
  • 23% had taken a City Break compared to 9% average
  • 40% were single, 6% were in a casual relationship, 11% were in a relationship of less than 6 months, 44% were in a relationship of over 6 months.
  • 41% were living with partner, 59% not cohabiting
  • Spending priorities: 34% would buy clothes, 29% on entertainment (24% and 18% national average)
  • 44% would spend money on a good holiday (50% national average)

In the USA it has been found that the gay market has more disposable income and a higher propensity to travel than the average American. Based on national population figures, the American gay and lesbian community represented a $47.3 million travel market in 2000, or about 10% of the US travel industry.

  • 89% took vacations
  • 54% took 3 or more vacations
  • 82% hold a valid passport (national average 18%)
  • 54% budget $3,000 or more on a vaction
  • 91% are college or University graduates.

One of the biggest annual gay events in the UK is London Lesbian and Gay Mardi Gras:

  • 250,000 attended the free1996 LGBT Pride festival
  • 65,000 attended London Mardi Gras 1999
  • 75,000 attended London Mardi Gras in 2001
  • 28,000 attended London Mardi Gras in 2002

  • 150,000 read the Pink Paper each week

  • Over 60,000 copies of Gay Times are sold through newsagents each month.

The current edition of the GAYtoZ Directory attracted over 1500 new gay and gay-friendly businesses to apply to be added.

In a survey of Gay Times readers they expressed a strong preference for gay and gay-friendly businesses:

  • 35% visit a gay pub or club at least once a week, with 20% more than once a week
  • 24% visit a restaurant at least once a week
  • 21% visit a gym or health club at least once a week
  • 59% own a car

At the 1994 Gay Lifestyle exhibition, 63% of visitors earnt above average earnings
In a national survey by Overlooked Opinions for Channel Four's Out programme:

  • 65% would boycott a company with anti-gay policies (a particularly effective lobbying technique in the USA)

  • Gay men buy more clothes for themselves, with Levis' jeans worn by 50%

  • There were higher levels of employment, and ownership of pensions and shares, than the national average

  • 27% of respondents had degrees or equivalents compared to 9% average

  • In general the survey showed high levels of brand loyalty to specific products and companies, and a high spend on clothes, travel, music and video, and socialising activities


Intercontinetal Brands have launched a flavoured alcoholic sparkling water called Fetish at the 'Dungeon in the Sky' SM expo. The product will be available through Threshers.

Bass Taverns have around 20 pubs aimed at the gay market in London, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Belfast and Liverpool.

Absolut and Smirnov Vodka have been leading advertising campaigns aimed at gay drinkers in order to influence a trend.

Levis and Virgin have both sponsored Gay Pride.

Waterstones and Virgin have large gay sections in the books and record departments. Waterstone's is planning a promotional campaign for its gay books in the first half of 1997. WHSmith now has 23 stores with lesbian and gay sections. Pink Paper, 6 September 1996

Major firms are changing their personnel policies (for example to include pension rights for same-sex partners) in response to customer and staff demand, eg Apple Computers.

Allied Domecq have targeted the gay consumer as one of their strategic opportunities, and investing in new innovations such as the net.

IKEA won a gay award for their inclusion of a gay couple in their US television commercials

BBC2 and Ch 4 have openly gay TV series, Radio Five Live has a weekly gay programme, and The Independent covers gay issues daily. There are seven free weekly gay newspapers.

© Stephen Coote & Associates

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