Businesses drawing more Hispanic consumers
The inside of Super Market Acapulco Tropical bustled with shoppers and diners Tuesday, many who stood in line for the store’s ultra-fat burritos or freshly baked cookies and breads. Others formed a line at the meat counter or perused aisles filled with dried chiles, powdered spices, canned goods, with festive pinatas hanging overhead.
And this was a slow day.
Store Manager Joey Leyva says business has exploded since the store first opened four years ago.
“ Our customers have grown,” she says. “At first it was mainly Hispanics and now it’s everyone.”
But Hispanics still form the base of the Acapulco Tropical’s customers — about 65 percent, Leyva says.
And they are not just people from Mexico, she adds.
“ Our main Hispanic customer, you would think they would be Mexican, but they’re not any more,” Leyva says. “The main ones are from Guatemala and Honduras.”
The fact that Acapulco Tropical has grown its sales by roughly 25 percent each year provides a snapshot of the power of the Hispanic dollar in the local community.
According to data from Nielsen and Global Insight, Hispanics spent $11.1 billion last year in the Central Florida area extending from Sarasota north to Citrus County.
Hispanics in the region last year accounted for 525,000 people — roughly 12.8 percent of the population — and had an average disposable household income of $62,562.
Cesar Gomez, chairman of the Latin Chamber of Commerce, which covers Manatee and Sarasota counties, has seen his membership rolls grow from 60 members in February of 2007 to 215 now.
He said membership is about 50 percent Hispanic and 50 percent Caucasian.
“ The area is understanding that Latinos are getting stronger and their buying power is growing,” Gomez says.
One company that is taking notice is State Farm Insurance.
This summer, the insurer launched its “State Farm Para Mi” (State Farm Is For Me) campaign that ramped up bilingual information at State Farm agencies on topics like voting and obtaining citizenship, as well as insurance and financial topics.
“ You just have to have the right processes in place, especially when it comes to talking about finances and insurance,” said Kirsten Palacios, Florida’s multi-cultural director for State Farm. “You want to make sure you have that information in Spanish. As it is, it’s difficult enough to understand in a person’s own language.”
Though she declined to disclose the number of dollars State Farm is spending on the campaign, Palacios said the insurer has more than doubled its spending on Hispanic marketing since last year.
“ Basically, it’s an overall strategy that we’ve had in Florida,” she said. “We’ve been very involved in the Hispanic community, as well as the African-American community. We actually trained our field executives and provided them with tips and hands-on materials to really make contact with the Hispanic community.”
Pedro Perez, owner of Nuevo Advertising in Sarasota, is helping State Farm with its Hispanic marketing efforts.
Perez said he has seen local companies impacted by the sagging economy. But they still realize the importance of targeting Hispanic customers. That has helped his business.
“ The business side of it has looked at us and said, ‘We’re doing Spanish, we’ve done it for a number of years, but we can’t afford to do it anymore’,” Perez says. “So they’ve asked us to come in and audit their material. With the purse strings tightening, people have asked us to consolidate their media. In some cases we consult and in some cases we handle it for them.”
Hispanic purchasing power is expected to hit $992 billion by 2009, according to the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies.
Between 1990 and 2007, U.S. Hispanic buying power grew at a compound annual rate of 8.7 percent, compared to 4.8 percent for the non-Hispanic growth rate.
Gomez, of the Gulf Coast Latin Chamber, says Hispanic customers are a golden opportunity for business owners because of their loyalty.
“ Once American business owners get the trust of that Latino … and you treat them with respect and you are fair to that customer, you are going to have 90 to 95 percent chance of that customer coming back to do business with you,” Gomez says. “That barrier of trust is more difficult to cross with the Latinos, but once you cross that barrier and you provide good customer service the Latino feels more comfortable.”