The Hispanic Market: Is Our Industry Missing Out?

What is likely to be the No. 1 TV network in America for July? CBS? NBC? 

Guess again, The Miami Herald says …

Univision expects to claim a coveted title this month: the most-watched network on television.

The Spanish-language broadcaster leads the July ratings race for adult viewers under 50, beating out the “Big Four” for the No. 1 spot in prime time. On Monday, Univision launched a bragging blitz with an open letter to ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC declaring “Número Uno is the new Number One” and ending with the sign-off line: “We are the new American reality.” 

This “new American reality” also represents an opportunity for our industry. In a 2011 survey from the Jewelry Consumer Opinion Council, a subsidiary of MVI Marketing, some eight out of 10 Hispanic consumers said they planned to purchase fine jewelry in the next 12 months. 

And yet, we don’t see much of the traditional industry doing much to reach out to this demographic. Clearly, there is a market there: Don Roberto Jewelers, which caters to Hispanic buyers, now has 75 stores in California. That ranks it in the top 10 of American jewelry chains. And while the JCOC estimates the overall Hispanic jewelry market at some $8 billion a year, the group’s president, Elizabeth Chatelain, says much of that business occurs at “under-the-radar” locales like swap meets or stores that don’t show up in the standard industry listings.

“A lot of those places don’t feel like a part of the traditional jewelry industry,” she says. “They don’t go out of their way to join JA or go to the JCK show.”

Still, she feels there is an opportunity for the traditional retailers to get involved in this market. After the JCOC released its study, Chatelain met with some big jewelers.

“Everyone acknowledged that it’s an important market,” she says. “But no one really said, ‘What’s the next step? Let’s make this important to us.’”

When asked if any big companies in our industry are doing a good job serving this market, she replies, “Not many.”

Steven Zale agrees. The chief merchandising officer of Zalemark— which is, like MVI, based in California—had his epiphany a few years back, while working on Gems TV.  

“After a year, we realized that our best customers were our Hispanic customers,” he says. “I thought: Why not focus on that consumer?”

He’s since started CompraLux, a home shopping TV channel that targets Hispanic jewelry fans.

“This is a very underserved market,” Zale says. 

He notes the Hispanic coming-of-age ceremony—quinceañera—often attracts jewelry gifts, and that some Hispanic consumers look at gold as a “sign of success and an investment.”

“This is a very loyal audience if you treat them right,” he says.  

So what can the industry do? Zale says he looked into turning Brodkey’s into a Hispanic-oriented jewelry chain. There had also been talk about doing the same with Friedman’s.

Chatelain feels, at the very least, jewelers in areas with heavy Hispanic populations should have Spanish signage, a Spanish-language website, and Spanish speakers on staff. And here’s an interesting point made by the JCOC: None of the major gem laboratories offer grading reports in Spanish.

She also suggests that more jewelers advertise on Spanish-language media, noting that it traditionally costs less. (Though, with Univision’s ratings, we’ll see.)

At the very least, our industry leaders should be paying more attention to this very real shift in our country’s makeup. With all the talk about younger consumers being less interested in jewelry, here is a market that is interested, and is growing.

The 2011 report’s title called the Hispanic jewelry market “The Hidden Giant.” Two years later, the market doesn’t even seem that hidden anymore. The question is: Will our industry take advantage of it? 

JCK News Director