A year ago, it was rare to see or hear Spanish-language ads in Las Vegas' mainstream media. Finding authentic Latino garb was nearly impossible in the valley. The Hispanic cuisine that grocery stores carried amounted to canned refried beans and packaged taco shells.
"There's a lack of understanding here of the size and depth of the Latino market," Miguel Barrientos, a Hispanic marketing specialist who hosts a show on KRLV 1340-AM, told VEGAS INC in June 2011. "They often view us as $8.50-an-hour laborers with no purchasing power. The Anglo market has seen Mexicans as the workforce but not the consumers."
That is beginning to change. As the country slowly creeps out of the recession, businesses are looking to invest in areas that promise growth, and the Hispanic community tops the list.
So stores have begun to stock items of interest to Hispanic consumers. English-language media companies have announced new Spanish-language ventures, while Spanish-language outlets have started to venture into English-language markets. Advertisers are starting to pay attention to the demographic.
The change over the past year has been dramatic, Barrientos said.
"I go to Smith's, Vons, Wal-Mart, and they have all been doing different products and more products to cater to Hispanics," Barrientos said. "It's a good time to look for new ways to bring consumers in. One way to get new customers is to target a market that has not been served. There is a big pool of immigrants, and in general, businesses are not catering to their needs."
Historically, the amount of money U.S. companies have spent marketing to Latinos has fallen short of the population's buying power. But that gap is starting to narrow. Companies are beginning to see the value in investing in Hispanic customers.
"Companies have started to reinvest and get back in the market after spending the last three years surviving the recession," said Jeremy Aguero, principal analyst at Applied Analysis. "Now is the time to take advantage of the recovery, and I've seen more marketing campaigns toward Hispanics in the past six months than in the last six years. A third of the population speaks a language other than English at home. So if you're only marketing in English, you're leaving a relatively large group out."
It's no coincidence that the marketing surge toward Hispanics has followed the 2010 Census. The country's most recent demographic survey quantifies the incredible growth of the demographic.
The U.S. Hispanic population now stands at approximately 50 million, and members spend upwards of $1 trillion a year, which would place the community among the top 20 economies in the world, according to a recent Nielsen report on Hispanic consumers. By 2015, Hispanic buying power is estimated to reach $1.5 trillion annually.
In Nevada, Hispanics account for a quarter of the population and make up half of all Clark County elementary school students. At $12 billion, the Southern Nevada market ranks 23rd in the nation for Hispanic purchasing power, according to market research firm Vision Advertising & Marketing. The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that nearly half of Nevada's Hispanic households own their homes.
The median age of Nevada's Hispanic population is 26, with a median income of $24,849, compared with $35,644 for non-Hispanic whites and $27,497 for non-Hispanic blacks, according to the Pew Research Center. Despite the down economy, U.S. Hispanic households that earn $50,000 or more annually are growing at a faster rate than total households, and even with drops in immigration, the Hispanic population is expected to grow 162 percent by 2050. The total population is anticipated to grow only 42 percent.
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