A few weeks ago I wrote about a study that said gays and lesbians spend more money on home repairs. I was full of questions – you can thank my statistics professor for my skepticism. Well, I got an e-mail this week from Matthew Tumminello of Target 10, the author of the study. Here’s what he had to say about the study . . .

You mentioned that the survey included responses that were only from the New York area but in fact it was fielded nationally. I agree that if the survey were limited geographically it would not be representative. We wanted to be sure to have rural, suburban and urban folk from every region of the country. We fielded the survey online and tried our best to get a good geographic cross section.

Regarding the sample size, determining the proper number of respondents is a complex process. That’s why we turned to a formal research company (Socratic Technologies) to help us with the methodology and science behind the survey. The total sample size was 611 and that is enough to produce results with 90 to 95 percent confidence levels. I can assure you that we took a very academic approach to the survey methodology and produced strong, valid numbers. If you talk to other researchers I think they’ll tell you that this was a strong sample size.

In my quote I do say that lesbian and gay shoppers are “savvy” and are determined to find what they want at the best price, but I did not mean to suggest they are not brand loyal or just looking for a bargain. What we found was that while lesbian and gay consumers are not as deterred by cost as non-gay consumers they will spend more time looking for the best price for the item that they want before they will compromise on a less expensive option. We found that gay consumers will invest the time to search high and low for the best deal on that item. That is what I meant by savvy. As you point out, the survey did not factor in how brand loyalty can affect purchasing decisions but two paragraphs later I do mention that lesbian and gay consumers are famous for their brand loyalty.

Personally, I would like to see more research done in the area of brand loyalty. As more companies become gay-supportive, I’d like to know how will that impact the purchasing decisions of our community. For example, I’d rather run out of gas on the highway than fill up at gay un-friendly Exxon but my choice of airlines is less clear. A lot of the major carriers are fantastically supportive and for this reason I often make my decision based on price and schedule and I wonder how others feel about this. I think this will become an interesting issue over the next few years.

You are correct that we did not ask why lesbian and gay consumers spent more money than non-gay consumers but that’s because when we fielded the survey we did not know if indeed that was happening. We did not know if spending would be more, less or equal.

While lesbian and gay men do not necessarily have higher incomes than non-gay individuals, they do have greater disposable income. I think this can be attributed to the fact that the majority of people in our community do not have the expenses associated with kids, although with the current “gay baby boom” that is probably changing rapidly. It’s an interesting development to watch.

You ask a good question. Why are we spending more? At the time of the survey we did not know if, in fact, gays were spending more so we could not ask why. What it does inform us about are the choices we make and how they may be different from non-gay homeowners. We’re are choosing to spend more in this category and we are making a greater investment in our homes than non-gay homeowners.

Of the points you made in your article, the one that resonated with me the most is that there is no mention of social responsibility on our web site and this is something I am going to address. From my perspective, I assumed that anyone reading about our agency would understand that everyone at Target 10 feels very strongly about corporate responsibility when it comes to the LGBT community but I see how this might not be evident. We believe that we can help promote social change through what we know best – marketing. Every time we take on a client assignment it results in money flowing to LGBT publications, non-profits and philanthropies and this is very rewarding. We’re also building bridges between businesses and the LGBT community and helping to raise greater overall awareness of LGBT issues. We also work hard at bringing value to clients who have a sincere interest in their gay customers.

Please check out the news section of our web site. I know it’s not the most user-friendly (we’re going to redesign the site this year) but visitors to that section can learn more about our views on social responsibility. You’ll see that mixed in with marketing news are important gay issues. We saluted Iowa for allowing gay marriage, praised Apple for donating money against Prop 8 and linked to marriage equality campaigns. Despite this, I do believe you are correct. We need to be more up-front about social responsibility on our site.

Finally, we do not have any business ties to the companies that were mentioned in our survey. I would hope that if any of them see the survey results they will recognize the value of our community and take a closer look at their own workplace policies. Do they treat their LGBT employees well? Are they responsible to the communities that they serve? Etc. Something I was very pleased about is that our survey results have kicked off an online discussion among lesbians and gay men about the gay friendly or not-so-gay-friendly policies/reputations of some of the companies that we included in our survey. Maybe that will encourage them to make some changes.