Don't Ignore the Hispanic Consumer
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[Editor's note: Debra Hazel, our retail correspondent leading up to RECon, wrote this article and conducted the interview.]
With spending power expected to reach $1.3 trillion by 2015, according to the US Census, the Hispanic consumer wields more influence on retail than ever before. Understanding this unique demographic is the subject of a May 21 session, “Hispanic Markets: The Next Goldrush,” at ICSC’s RECon in Las Vegas. Panel moderator Vanessa Delgado, director of development for GlobeSt.com RECON Thought Leader the Los Angeles-based Primestor Development, which focuses on building in Hispanic areas, spoke with us regarding the session and the demographics behind it.
GlobeSt.com: The growing importance of the Latino consumer isn’t just limited to the expected states like California, the Southwest and Miami, correct?
Delgado: That’s what our focus is going to be: Just who is this emerging upscale Latino in secondary markets? We’re going to be talking about Salt Lake City and Jacksonville, Washington DC, and even Honolulu. It’s a changing trend. Even Baltimore is starting to change into a different marketplace. Latinos may not be the majority there yet, but it’s a community people should be thinking about for retail.
Some of the fastest-growing [Latino] populations are on the East Coast, in areas you wouldn’t think about: Alabama; the Carolinas, where they’re doubling in population. It’s a small population, but the growth is pretty crazy.
GlobeSt.com: Is that because people are moving for work?
Delgado: People are just looking for opportunity. There have been a lot of initiatives and policy changes in the Southwest that don’t make it as friendly for recent immigrants. So people are traveling where there’s work: there are decent manufacturing and opportunities in some of these other markets. Here, transportation is a growing sector, [also] the food industry. There are technical schools that people gravitate to. We’re going to be talking about that, and understanding who this person is, their shopping patterns, the real estate patterns in general.
The title “Gold Rush” is very fitting. A lot of miners went out to strike gold, but it’s really the people who understood what they were getting into, and went there with a specific point, that ended up becoming the millionaires. Levi Strauss understood that people needed clothes. Like the Gold Rush, the Hispanic Gold Rush can be deceiving. You need to appreciate the demographics. Those people who really understand the fundamentals behind why it’s a Gold Rush and truly capitalize on it can be really successful.
We’re going to be highlighting Panda Express’ story. They targeted second and third-generation Latinos here in the US in the suburbs. They targeted the border and then moved into Latin America. We’ll hear why they decided to go after all three and how they’re doing.
GlobeSt.com: What will you be talking about at your RECon meetings?
I’m going to be looking for the next project. [Azalea,] our project in South Gate [CA] is under construction and doing very well. We do obviously want to complete that, but we’re looking for new opportunities. Our focus is still generally in the Southwest: Colorado, Texas, Arizona, Las Vegas and California. I’m meeting with cities because they’re still interested in trying to figure out how to make the properties they have viable, and our project at South Gate is such a unique public/private partnership that they’re looking for answers on how to get projects done in this economic era of uncertainty. It’s still pretty crazy.
I’m doing select meetings with tenants we’d still like to have in our centers [but] haven’t yet developed a Hispanic model. They want to learn and hear more. We’re really laser-focused. It’s an exciting time. We have a really great opportunity right now.
Primestor has been educating people for quite some time about how the Latino consumer is different.
Delgado: It is a different consumer. The story behind panel is that you can’t look at these demographics the same way you look at everything else. You will be behind the curve if you wait another 10 years to look at this model, because by then the very loyal Hispanic shopper will have already gravitated toward a particular tenant, and they will stick with that tenant because they believed in them. The loyal shopper will stay with the tenant who took the risk. I believe those tenants will do really well. [In 10 years], Latinos will not only be this new voting-purchasing bloc to be dealt with, it will be too late for the tenants that will be scrambling at that time. A lot of tenants really get that now, and what we’re spending our time now doing is making sure we find the right site for them to enter the marketplace.
A lot of tenants are trying with Azalea, which I think will be very successful for them, but we have to find them new opportunities. We have to keep growing. And I’m really excited about how quickly these communities are growing outside California and the Southwest. That is the interesting thing: How do the tenants evolve there so they don’t miss out capitalizing on this marketplace? I don’t have all the answers, but it is a Gold Rush.
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