Hispanics' Move From Niche to Mainstream Goes Beyond Numbers

LOS ANGELES -- While any retailer needs only to look at the latest U.S. Census numbers to see that the Hispanic population -- and its spending power -- are important to their business, the move of Latinos from niche to mainstream is more than just the numbers.

The numbers, as powerful as they are, only tell part of the story, Guy Garcia, president of new mainstream initiatives at EthniFacts, told the attendees of the 8th annual Hispanic Retail 360 Summit, taking place this week in Los Angeles. "There are changes under the surface," he said. "We all feel it."

Those changes are beginning to be seen and felt in every part of the United States, he noted. Hispanics have moved out of the traditional melting pot states such as New York, California and Texas and into the suburbs of every state. Notably, Garcia added, there has been a huge influx of Hispanics into the South.

And it is not just ethnic groups that are driving the move away from niche. The “creative class” -- a large part of the U.S. population that embraces change and multicultural influences -- combines with the largest ethnic groups to make up the mainstream, he explained.

"It is misguided to say that there is a one-way acculturation. What has always happened is mutual acculturation," Garcia said, noting each new group arriving has changed the fabric of America. "It has always been a two-way street."

With identities constantly evolving, the two-way street is almost becoming the mandatory road to take. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, nine million people identified themselves by two or more ethnicities, Garcia cited.

Taking that figure into account, it is hard to imagine that some retailers still look at a multicultural approach as something in the future.

As XL Alliance Managing Partner Lili Gil Valletta explained, the future is now. "2050 is projected to be the year that minorities become the majority, but 2050 is today. L.A. is 2050; New York is 2050; Miami is 2050," she said, adding that the minority population is 68 percent in New York and 70 percent in Los Angeles. "In many major U.S. markets, they are already the majority."

Those numbers raise the question: What are you? Manny Fields, managing partner of XL Alliance, said the fastest-growing population segment is multiracial, which creates new consumers and hard-to-predict consumers.

Given that dynamic, retailers and suppliers need to think outside a traditional multicultural marketing approach -- which is not going away -- and launch an inclusive multicultural marketing approach to appeal to the masses, Valletta said, emphasizing that reaching the mass market is the sweet spot.

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