Queer Eye Makes Over The Economy!
By Ellen Florian

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Who knew that guys getting girlie would be such a boon to business? In the weeks following an episode of the Bravo/NBC hit show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy--in which five gay men, known as the Fab 5, make over a low-maintenance straight man--many businesses whose products are featured have seen a significant sales boost.

Lucky Brand jeans saw a 17% jump in its men's category for the two months following a plug on Queer Eye. Since a December episode in which Thomasville Furniture was one of the shopping hot spots, sales of leather upholstery called Patchwork have jumped by 50%. At candle chain Illuminations, sales of a sconce spiked 365% following the program. A lantern that was shown had already sold out before the episode appeared, and there was no way to restock it. "The call center kept complaining because that's all they were hearing all day long," says Clay Lingo, who heads up direct sales. At furniture store Domain, purchases of a settee, dubbed the "chofa" by Queer Eye (because it's a chair and a sofa), have climbed to 150 per month from fewer than 40. The company projects chofa revenue of $1 million in 2004. "It's the most amazing marketing vehicle that Domain has ever been able to do," says CEO Judy George. "And it wasn't even our idea."

Last season businesses had merely to pass Fab 5 muster and provide free product and a filming location for the show. Now some mentions come with a pricetag--Oral-B says it was quoted $20,000. (A show spokesman says that there are no fixed prices, and adds that everything used on each episode is chosen by the Fab 5.)

A recent Jericho Communications survey found that on the day following a new episode of Queer Eye, men were five times more likely to go shopping than women. "Men feel more confident now about being stylish," says Judy Gordon, founder of TheTrendReport.com.

But how much will men really sacrifice for fashion? NBC will find out on Feb. 1: The network is pitting a Queer Eye marathon against the manliest of all TV events, the Super Bowl. --Ellen Florian