Advertisers eye spendy DINK couples

Man and woman dining in a restaurant.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: The economy has started getting better. We got that much from the gross domestic product report this past Friday morning. GDP's not shrinking as fast as it used to. Still, it's going to be a while before a lot of consumers start feeling really good about things and start spending again. I'm thinking here about consumers who, like me, have kids to help burn through a paycheck. But there is a huge chunk of the population without kids, and many of them have been experiencing the recession in a very different way. Advertisers call them DINKs, double income, no kids. Marketplace's Jeremy Hobson reports.


JEREMY HOBSON: If you want to get an idea how DINKs spend their money during a recession, where do you go? Maybe Times Square?

They've got all kinds of people there and all kinds of pricey diversions. Yvonne and Rick Yu are visiting from Toronto. They have no kids, and they're spending like it's, well, 2007.

RICK YU: Oh, I think we're just still young, so we can just kinda do whatever we want to do right now and be free to see whatever we want to see.

Same story for Rebecca Lopez and her boyfriend. She says she wouldn't have flown from Spain to take in New York's tourist attractions if she had kids.

REBECCA LOPEZ: We are free. We are not married, but we are a couple for years, but we don't have kids, and it change everything.

It sure does, according to Wes Combs of the marketing firm Witeck-Combs Communications.

WES COMBS: To raise a child today, at a minimum, from birth to 18 before college is between $100,000 and $200,000 per child. That's a lot of money that an individual without children can spend on themselves.

Combs says one of the best ways to get an idea what DINKs are doing is to look at gays and lesbians. Sure some gay couples have kids, but there are still plenty that don't.

COMBS: They're more confident about what's going on right now and what they're seeing, and there's also some additional evidence to show that they're spending more when they go out, specifically with travel.

Combs conducted a survey recently that found 62 percent of gays planned to maintain or increase their travel budgets this year. To find out for myself, I hopped on a bus to the gay Mecca of Provincetown, Mass.

BARKER: Looking for hungry people! Bayside Betsy's has lots of food and it ain't gonna eat itself!

It's just after noon on a hot sunny day. On P-town's main strip, Commercial Street, the barkers are out. And so are the spenders. Like partners Larry Walsh and John Buchan from Peoria, Ill.

LARRY Walsh: We're doing our stimulus package for P-town.

Hobson: And what are you doing today?

Walsh: Today, we're going shopping again. We're shopping today, and then we're going to the pool later on, and then we're going out to dinner.

If you're looking for a place to stay the night in Provincetown, good luck. No vacancy signs are more prevalent than the for-lease signs on the store fronts back in New York. Howard Weiner runs a guest house called Howards End.

Hobson: How many rooms are vacant right now?

HOWARD Weiner: Ummm...none.

Hobson: Totally full.

Weiner: Yeah.

Now, Weiner says business is still off about 20 percent off from last year. But not among couples, both gay and straight, without kids.

WEINER: They're spending pretty much the same thing. Of course, gays will spend more on drinks, on liquor and at the clubs, than straight couples will. That is definitely for sure.

If there's one place where the money in P-town drains like the tide, it's the Boatslip. Patrons sip down $10 drinks before an evening of entertainment.

Mark Sam Rosenthal's trying to lure an audience for his one-man drag show, Blanche Survives Katrina in a FEMA Trailer Named Desire. I asked him if the crowds have been indicative of the greatest recession since the Great Depression.

MARK SAM ROSENTHAL: No, but I wasn't here for that one. I'm not that old! I mean, I hear that it's worse than last summer, but I don't see the greatest, whatever you said.

Neither do companies that are taking advantage of the DINKs, whether they're gay or straight. Again, here's marketing consultant Wes Combs.

COMBS: They understand this unique element that this segment, while other parts of the economy are going down, is more likely to spend right now. So they're making sure that they target those dollars, the limited dollars that they have for advertising, at a minimum, on this market.

Combs says those dollars will be well spent, because so far DINKs are behaving as though this recession has been dinky.

In Provincetown, Mass., I'm Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

About the author

Jeremy Hobson is host of Marketplace Morning Report, where he looks at business news from a global perspective to prepare listeners for the day ahead.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...