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nimarka1's avatar

Is an LGBT smoke shop website a good idea?

Asked by nimarka1 (929 points ) September 24th, 2012

So I work at a smoke shop that sells everything glass. Pipes, water pipes (bongs) bubblers, hookahs, hookah tobacco, and a lot of other accessories. My boss is kind of out there, and always has crazy ideas. He is a big supporter of the LGBT community, and advertises in the LGBT weekly magazine. But now he wants me to open a gay smoke shop website, or an LTBG online store. I myself am gay and i’m not really sure how i feel about it, except that it’s kind of weird. Why can’t it just be a regular online store, rather than labeling it “gay”. What is it that makes a smoke shop gay?
Anyway, thats what he wants. Is this a good idea? is it stupid, is it demeaning to gay people? Could you see it being successful?

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13 Answers

janbb's avatar

I find it a little hard to understand what the point would be. “You’ve come a long way, Baby?”

Jeruba's avatar

This comment is only theoretical because I’m not a member of the LGBT community or a user of the equipment you sell.

To me it sounds like it’s trying to capitalize on community solidarity to attract business. And it sounds like it could well backfire if the effect is to exclude (or at least fail to attract) a much larger prospective clientele. As you say, what’s gay about smoking gear? especially online, where there’s no face-to-face contact and where what you do in the rest of your life seems irrelevant? It’s sort of like, how about a smoke shop for history majors? or for short people?

LuckyGuy's avatar

What will he sell there? Only rainbow colored goods? Why would he exclude 90% of the population? Does he have an ulterior motive of collecting addresses and making it into an LGBT dating site?
Last time I checked, smoking was gender neutral.

poisonedantidote's avatar

From a business point of view it makes no sense to me, why limit your audience.

There are some people who hate gay people with every inch of their heart, they wont buy from you. If you really are pro LGBT, would it not be nice to take some money from haters too?

gambitking's avatar

Yeah man, I’m not quite sure why you would take that retail outlet to a forum where you can get worldwide business, and then restrict it to a much smaller market. Doesn’t make much sense except for the appeal factor to LGBT crowds.

A better suggestion would be to make the site non specific as far as orientation, and then create a subdomain for the LGBT community, linked with a subtle button or link, and on that subdomain, you can build loyalty from LGBT patrons, offer ad-trading programs, etc, and perhaps find new channel partners in that community. You get the best of both and don’t limit your consumer base on the website.

I’ve been doing professional web marketing and e-commerce for a while, and trust me when I say you don’t want to corner yourself in such a niche market with that model.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

He’s just using what he perceives to be the LGBT community as another market – I guess you have to do what he tells you since he’s the boss. Or maybe I shouldn’t be so cynical and he wants to be supportive and thinks doing this accomplishes same.

woodcutter's avatar

It’s a dumb idea and it will tank. You can’t be pro someone without being anti someone else in that retail situation. It would possibly work if he was hawking dildos but even then…

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

I wouldn’t be so quick to rule it out as a bad idea. After all, it’s just an idea. The key is to assess the ROI (Return on Investment). If the money spent on research, development and marketing won’t be covered by the cost of the increased sales, then there is no ROI.

Research: One must figure out if there is a market for selling his wares to a particular community. If only 10% of the world community falls in the category of LGBT, and just to throw a made up figure out there, 10% of that 10% would be interested in the products, then the effort isn’t really worth the investment.

Design To be effective, it takes a great deal of time to design, develop and deploy a website that is catchy and works.That costs money.

Marketing A business might be able to put a website out on the internet, but if they want it to be seen by a particular audience, it costs money to advertise in the appropriate arena.

Your boss is better off investing in targeted marketing. For example, why not partner with smoking clubs (I have no idea if they exist)? Ask regular customers how to reach out to others….they may have a lead. Create discount coupons…Buy X amount of supplies and get X amount off.

downtide's avatar

I think it may be a bad idea from a business point of view. Too many straight people will flat out refuse to use any business that is openly gay, so this move may seriously hit sales.

On the other hand, he might wish to advertise in the LGBT community as being a gay-friendly business, without emblazoning it all across the shop.

Kayak8's avatar

I don’t get it and it certainly isn’t helping the health of our community any—an element that could certainly backfire . . .

_Whitetigress's avatar

I don’t see why it can’t just be a “regular” website and perhaps you know how you have Twitter, FaceBook, YouTube, business logos at the bottom or something? Maybe there can be a nice little rainbow flag and equality logo at the bottom of the page or something that shows your business supports the community.

The concept of a gay or lesbian smoker only store is kind of like making a Jewish smoking only store, or African American only smoking store, or College Graduate’s only smoking store or Hawaiian’s Only smoking store, it’s just too segregated and doesn’t really relate to the product being sold.

Now that doesn’t mean you can’t use strictly gay and lesbian people for ads? Say a couple having a good time smoking out of a water pipe or something. You know? Instead of like a Marlboro ad it’d be more like NewPort magazine ads instead with two girls or two guys or whatever. The “smoke scene” where I’m from is an eclectic group I think making it a race war or gender war is counter intuitive and thus the idea is a bust in my opinion.

seekingwolf's avatar

Smoking is gender neutral. He’s trying to assign a sexuality to his product and I think it will backfire. I don’t see the point, honestly. People who smoke, of all ages and orientations, will buy it. Why potentially alienate people?

As for I, I would not be a patron to a business that advertises itself as “gay”... I have no issues with businesses that encourage all customers but ones that only seem to cater to gays are not places I go to and yes, I avoid them.

I am straight (with sadly, some bisexual behavior in my past) and I have been to a local coffee house that was marketed only to gays and trans. So literally all of the customers were either, they had drinks referencing gay lingo, etc . Frankly, I felt uncomfortable and I haven’t gone back again.

woodcutter's avatar

Have gays ever been intimidated by going inside online head shops before? Have they ever needed a special invite as patrons?

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