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Technology Stocks : XO Group Inc
XOXO 34.990.0%Dec 21 4:00 PM EST

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To: Tom Caruthers who wrote (62)5/15/2004 1:37:12 PM
From: Glenn Petersen   of 133
 
Tom,

I am going to try to find some time to listen to the conference call later this weekend.

Gay weddings commence Monday morning at 12:01 a.m. The Boston Globe has an article today on the opportunities that this development presents for the wedding industry.

boston.com

Gays have suitors in wedding industry

Firms hope to cash in as legal vows begin


By Sasha Talcott, Globe Correspondent

May 15, 2004

When gay couples book their honeymoons in Boston's trendy Nine Zero hotel, the staff promises them the night of their dreams: champagne, chocolate-dipped strawberries and, if they want, an ''anti-bacterial fiber pillow" from its extensive ''pillow menu."

The hotel's ''Freedom to Marry Honeymoon Package" is part of a blizzard of gay-themed packages and ad campaigns from florists, caterers, and photographers looking to tap into the legal start of gay marriage on Monday.

Boston jeweler Shreve, Crump & Low is running ads in gay newspapers with the headline ''This is love. It's not up for a vote." Several New England tuxedo stores posted their phone numbers in gay wedding directories. Spas are offering couples everything from a ''champagne facial" to a ''pina colada body wrap" on their wedding days.

In Cambridge, the Hyatt Regency is ordering up a middle-of-the-night, three-tiered wedding cake for 12:01 a.m. Monday, when the first gay marriage is scheduled at City Hall. The hotel is also instructing its staff not to assume that two men, or two women, would opt for two beds.

''We say, 'Would you like a room with one king-size bed, or two double beds?' " said Patrick Sorge, director of sales and marketing. ''It's just a question of what the preference is, and then booking them into the appropriate room."

For years, many companies around the country have quietly tailored their advertising to gays and lesbians, hoping to cash in on a market that tends to be more affluent and educated than the average. Community Marketing Inc. of San Francisco, which studies such demographics, estimates that three-quarters of gays and lesbians have household incomes above the national average, while more than 80 percent are college graduates.

Several national chains, including Macy's, use gender-neutral terms like ''spouse" and ''registrant" in their wedding registries to accommodate same-sex couples.

But with gay marriage legal for the first time, many major companies are adding wedding ads -- once a rarity even among the most gay-friendly companies -- to the mix.

Shreve, Crump & Low has been aggressively advertising gold, platinum, and white gold bands, hoping to boost sales among both gay and straight couples. Its first ad for a commitment ring in 2002 proclaimed that ''Not all the good ones are gay or taken. Some are both."

''I believe our mission is to sell beautiful products that celebrate life milestones," said Merritt Mayher, the jeweler's chief executive. ''It doesn't matter what your lifestyle is, everyone has milestones."

She said sales of the band have been strong, though the company does not track whether the buyers were gay or straight.

Not every store is eager to jump on the gay marriage bandwagon, however. Filene's plans to keep the ''bride" and ''groom" labels in its wedding registry, though it remains open to gay couples, said spokeswoman Regina Norfolk. ''There are no plans at this time to do anything different than we've always done," she said.

But other retail chains say the gay wedding market represents too big an opportunity to pass up.

Classic Tuxedo recently outfitted models in a gay fashion show with its tuxedos. It also is planning a direct-mail campaign with an offer of $40 off a tuxedo rental for hundreds of people who attended a recent gay-wedding expo, said spokeswoman Andrea DiFabio.

She said gay customers tend to go for the more expensive tuxes and accessories, making them good customers. ''It's a look that's perfect for a man or a woman," she said.

Same-sex marriage also may mean profits for another apparel company, Reason8 of Boston, which makes political T-shirts. Owner David Rosen is ordering more than 300 shirts that read ''I do, I do, I do" to distribute to gay bookstores, natural foods stores, and feminist shops across the country.

The shirts, which will sell for about $22, show the symbol of two women, two men, and a man and a woman.

''It has really resonated," Rosen said. ''It's so simple. It kind of snowballed on us."

Salons, florists, and invitation companies are also getting in on the act.

The Rainbow Wedding Network, a gay wedding website, lists more than 220 Boston-area stores competing for its customers. One of them, Spa Visage of Norwell, listed its services on the site about two months ago in an attempt to persuade gay clients to consider the spa's wedding packages when they tie the knot.

Though the spa has yet to book its first gay wedding, receptionist Kelly Raymond said the salon has been getting dozens of calls on the topic. She recommends couples on their wedding days get a ''salt glow body polish" and an aromatherapy massage. ''It's good to relax beforehand," Raymond said.

But with all the controversy surrounding gay marriage, even companies offering wedding packages insist the promotions are not at all political. Nine Zero hotel said it views its ''Freedom to Marry Honeymoon Package" as a good fit for gay and straight couples.

''We're probably the least controversial bunch of people you've ever met," said Jim Horsman, the hotel's general manager. ''All we want is to create a memorable experience for the guests who stay here."

Sasha Talcott can be reached at stalcott@globe.com.
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