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Industry should focus on growing Hispanic market

We frequently talk about our need in the marine industry to embrace — make that vigorously pursue — diversity for our future growth. If being an industry that’s “inclusive” isn’t a motivator, or if “political correctness” doesn’t spur action, how about recognizing that’s where prospects with money can be found?

The convenience store industry is a leader in monitoring diverse consumer behavior. So it’s worthy to note that Convenience Store News recently reported on a new survey conducted by New York Life and Ipsos Public Affairs that reveals when it comes to having a more positive outlook for their financial future, 84 percent of Hispanics surveyed expect their family’s finances to increase in the next four years while only 68 percent of the general public feels the same.

Among the Hispanic respondents currently employed full time, 85 percent feel confident about their current job security, according to the report. Moreover, fully two-thirds of the Hispanic adults studied said they believe they’ll even be able to retire without drawbacks, compared to just half (52 percent) of the general population.

We know from the latest U.S. Census that Hispanics are the fastest growing minority segment of our population. This study joins many others that clearly indicate Hispanics are also experiencing increased affluence and wealth creation, not to mention political importance (just ask Mitt Romney). Specifically, Hispanics are already more than 16 percent of the population and growing three times faster than the general U.S. population, according to a Goldman Sachs study. Demographers at the Pew Research Center predict Hispanics will make up 29 percent of the total population by 2040.

Perhaps that explains why Walmart has targeted the growing spending power of Hispanic consumers by allocating a reported $66.6 million in 2010 and double that the next year to reach them. Clearly, if Hispanics are not on our boat sales radar before, they should be considered our general market today. And dollars are being allocated to multicultural marketing efforts to increase boating and fishing. For example, the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation this year has retained an ad agency, Lopez Nagrete of Houston, that specializes in the Hispanic market. They’re developing a campaign to introduce Hispanics to fishing and boating as a way to improve their quality of life.

The industry’s Discover Boating national campaign is also aiming promotion at Hispanics, as well as African-Americans and Asian-Americans. And it’s more than just including some pictures of minorities in boats. Many Discover Boating materials, like the excellent “Guide to Getting Started in Boating,” are now available in English or Spanish. Dealers should check out www.growboating.org to see the variety of free materials available including video, photos and printed items that feature minorities.

The changes in minority profiles of the country can be observed in some areas more than others, of course. Dealers must determine the ethnic makeup of their particular market area. For example, minority groups reportedly make up at least 50 percent of the populations of Los Angeles, Miami, San Antonio, Honolulu and other cities. In fact, states like Florida, California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Mexico, Texas and New York have numerous cities with large Hispanic populations. On the other hands, most New England states don’t. Notably, the majority of Walmart’s so-called Hispanic stores are concentrated in eight states, including 171 stores in Texas, 126 in California, 50 in Florida, 36 in Arizona and 33 in New Mexico.

Successfully targeting the Hispanic market, or any minority group, involves more than running an ad in the local Hispanic publication or having a Spanish-speaking salesman on staff. It’s recognizing the culture, tastes and values of the group, because every minority has a culture of its own with traits that must be reflected in ad messages. Studies show that for Hispanics, the No. 1 cultural characteristic is spending time with family. And that value couldn’t be better for boating since we know our products genuinely support and improve the family lifestyle.

Perhaps we’ve finally reached the tipping point in the industry when it comes to targeting minorities, especially Hispanics. Because it’s a convenient truth that the nation’s 52 million Hispanics have a large and growing buying power right now that Bloomberg Businessweek predicts will top $1.5 trillion in less than two years.

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