April 24, 2009

The Mercado Report: The Latino market power

By Humberto Caspa

About twenty-five years ago, when ‘reaga-nomics’ became synonym of open-market economics and Arnold Schwarzenegger just had his first dose of success with Conan the Barbarian, Latinos had few Spanish-language radio stations to listen to. We just didn’t have many options in the market.

It didn’t matter whether someone was flipping hamburgers at a restaurant or doing a middle-class administrative job at a car dealership, many of us dreamed switching radio stations like mainstream Americans did during those years. My compadre Macedonio Pary, on his way to work to an assembly line, would tune to K-LOVE 107.5 because it was the only available FM Spanish-language radio station in the market.

My compadre’s fortune has changed for the better. He owns a small spray-on protective coating business in the OC area and has plenty of Spanish-language radio stations to choose from. “When I’m cranky, I like to cool it down with the K-LOVE,” he said. If he wants to boost his energy and get some laughs, he’ll go with “El Piolin de la Mañana,” a popular morning talk-show.

Something similar happened with television. Twenty-five years ago, Latinos didn’t have a choice but to watch novela after novela (soap-opera shows) on Univision television network during prime time hours. Luckily today there are other competitors in the market, including cable companies armed with heavy Spanish and English programming packages. With a relatively inexpensive monthly payment, Latinos can get first-world soccer matches from overseas on their TV sets.

Early this month, a Mexican media titan, Grupo Radio Centro, bought K-MVN 93.9 FM. The new management immediately changed its English-language programming to Spanish. It was the second switch of this kind in less than three months.

Like the media outlets, other businesses have adjusted their market strategies to cater the growing Latino population.

Some savvy businessmen/women interested in benefiting from the new market trends have moved resources and capital to invest on the Latino population. Their spending power is hard to pass by. After all we comprise 32% of the population in this county. That’s close to one million of us ready to spend our weekly earnings on food, cloths, services, gadgets, etc. To say the least our buying power nationwide is projected to grow to $1.1 trillion by 2009 and to $12.4 trillion by 2011 according to researchers at the University of Georgia.

Despite rumors that the economic meltdown is pushing some Latinos out of the country, the reality is that the vast majority is staying here. In fact, more of them are surging slowly into this area.

When they move in, they often bring their families with them, including their customs, culture, politics and more importantly their economic needs. Those entrepreneurs enable to recognize the new changing patterns of the market will likely rip the benefits of it. Those who don’t, I’m afraid they will lag behind. The Latino market is here to help those eager managers and investors who are ready to boost their profit margins.

Humberto Caspa, a Costa Mesa resident, is a bilingual writer on Latino business and economics. E-mail: hcletters@yahoo.com

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