Awhile back, I was chatting with a hot tub retailer who mentioned that the spa industry does virtually no marketing to the gay and lesbian community. He pointed out that this group has a lot of disposal income and makes up a significant percentage of the population in many urban areas, yet no effort is made to reach out to them as potential spa buyers.

“We should do an article about that,” I said.

“Well, I’ve mentioned it to manufacturers and other retailers, but they just ignore me,” he replied. “You’re going to have a hard time getting anyone to participate.”

We’ll see, I thought. In my experience, the people in our industry will weigh in on almost any topic, even if only to provide a “safe” broad-based quote.

But I was wrong. Way wrong.

In writing the article, our reporter contacted eight spa manufacturers for comments, but only one (Cal Spas) provided us with an actual quote. The rest either declined to participate or, more commonly, just didn’t return her repeated phone calls.

After the piece was written, we were faced with the tricky task of illustrating the story. We decided to shoot a picture here in the office of two men holding hands, and using Photoshop, place them inside a spa showroom, with a welcoming salesperson nearby. Luckily, we had some stock footage of a retailer that I thought would be perfect.

As a precaution, I called the store owner to make sure they didn’t mind being shown selling a spa to a gay couple. I explained that the article offered tips on marketing to this demographic, but that the retailer’s name and identifying information from the store wouldn’t be included — we just needed a generic image.

I was met with a resounding “No.” “I’m not homophobic,” the retailer explained, “but I’ll get razzed. I even have gay friends, but I don’t want to go there.” In the end, we depicted a different showroom and no salesperson.

A little time spent on Google confirms this type of experience. Virtually every major city in the United States has a Gay Yellow Pages online, many of them packed with ads and listings of companies reaching out to this demographic. Yet the number of spa dealers showing up on those pages can be counted on one hand.

I actually called a hot tub service company that had a listing on the Los Angeles site, and chatted with the owner. He was mystified as to why there weren’t more companies present.

“Sure, we advertise there,” he said. “West Hollywood is a known gay community and it’s also part of our service area, so we take advantage of that. A lot of them have spas and, hey, I don’t want to generalize, but they happen to be great customers. They’re hassle-free and they pay on time.”

In study after study of gay and lesbian individuals, the majority of respondents say their purchasing decisions are influenced by whether a company supports their community. That finding might not matter if this group weren’t such excellent potential spa buyers. But they are.

According to one study of 30,000 gay and lesbian Americans, 71 percent had college degrees, 54 percent were homeowners (with 5 percent buying a home in the past year), and 26 percent purchased either a bicycle or camping equipment in the past year as well. The male respondents tended to live in condos or townhomes in large cities, while females were more likely to reside with a partner in a single-family home and have children.

If you’re a spa retailer serving a densely populated area you’d be crazy not to reach out to this demographic. If you don’t, your competition will.