Hard times? Not for the dating industry
High unemployment, stagnant or decreasing wages and a lingering nationwide economic slump: It all sounds like the worst environment for a business. But if you're in the dating industry, it might just be your best shot for success.
As the grudgingly persistent downturn helps to grow the legions of low-paid -- or "no-paid" -- and unhappy workers, dating websites and services are getting a boost. This is the time when many people open up their search for love to make up for everything else that's lacking in their lives, experts say.
Dating services are forecast to grow 4.7% per year and exceed $2.5 billion by 2015, said a recent study by Marketdata Enterprises.
Kerry Salzano, chief marketing officer of BestDailyDates, a website for people to post date ideas, said she believes the economic downturn has played a part in people's desire to find love -- and using the Internet is a cheap way to fulfill it.
"We've been doubling our traffic every three to four weeks over the last few months," Salzano said.
IAC, owner of popular dating sites Match.com and Chemistry.com, has been doing gangbusters as the economy continues to reel. Match and Chemistry's revenue grew 56% between the first quarter of 2011 and the same time period this year, jumping to $173.4 million; subscribers to the services grew 12%.
"This desire to be with someone is innate," said Alex Furmansky, founder of Sparkology, an invite-only website for single professionals. "If you are laid off and not in a good spot financially, it's nice to have a close support group around you."
Stephen Smith, co-founder of the WhosHere app, which launched in 2008, said he saw downloads spike 200% in 2011. But the best year he had was 2009 -- one of the worst years on record for the economy -- as the social-networking app, predominantly used for dating, saw downloads increase 472% and active users increase 227%. That same year, the national unemployment rate surged above 10%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Smith said that the high unemployment rate may have played a part in WhosHere's success. Whether out of work or simply going out less, Smith said people had more time to play on their smartphones. The appeal was that people could use the app to chat with prospective dates in a low-cost setting -- whether at home or at the grocery store.
"The recession pretty clearly changed people's normal confidence in spending money on luxuries and entertainment," Smith said.
Today, WhosHere has 6,000 users in New York City and more than 5 million downloads globally.
New York-based "dateologist" Tracey Steinberg, who coaches singles and hosts flirting parties, said her clientele includes investment bankers and models who have put so much time and energy into their careers that they have neglected their love lives.
Although the majority of her clients have stable jobs, Steinberg agreed that the economic downturn has helped the dating industry.
"I think that when people are in crisis, their priorities become a lot clearer," she said. "When they are scared or stressed out, what's truly important becomes clear."