Strength in Numbers

Hispanic-Americans make up the second-largest ethnic group in the United States, and Hispanic buying power—the total discretionary income of all U.S. Hispanics—is second only to that of white Americans, according to recent Census figures. Many groups in the United States are taking these numbers seriously.

Consider some recent evidence:

  • Hispanic Designers Inc. was recently founded in Washington, D.C., by Hispanic style leaders including fashion designers Oscar de la Renta and Carolina Herrera and jewelry designer Paloma Picasso.

  • Numerous beauty pageants just for Hispanic-American women are held annually, including several organized by Hispanic beauty pageant pioneer Dawn Ramos of Dawn Ramos Productions, Denison, Texas.

  • The Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, recently paid tribute to Hispanic fashion and design influences over the past century with an exhibit called “Latin American Fashion: Exploring Identities on the New York Runway.”

  • Strategy Research Corp., Miami, Fla., a company committed to researching the Hispanic population exclusively, recently published the 2002 U.S. Hispanic Market Report, a study that reveals the buying power of key Hispanic markets.

Other statistics about Hispanic-Americans have caught jewelers’ attention as well. For example, Census data reveal that Hispanics’ disposable income is $452.4 billion—roughly what the entire U.S. population will spend on fine jewelry in the next decade.

That figure caught the eye of company officials at Princess Pride Creations/Skalet Fine Jewelry, Chicago, Ill. To educate clients about population trends, Skalet developed a presentation—including demographics on the top 50 Hispanic markets in the United States—for its major clients, including Sears. The company also refined data within those markets, isolating predominately Hispanic neighborhoods through zip code searches. “We want our clients to know exactly which stores [should] sell jewelry that Hispanics like,” says Roland Benavides, executive vice president of sales for the company.

But Skalet took the research an extra step. The company also queried jewelers in those markets to find out what Hispanic customers were buying and found that karat-gold religious items were tops.

Based on these findings, Skalet recently created a line of jewelry specifically for Hispanics—Oro de Dios. “Literally, it means ‘gold from God,’ but the name simply [implies] religious jewelry,” says Benavides. To call attention to the line in stores—a simple advertising task that’s frequently overlooked, according to Benavides—Skalet made displays available to clients.

A 118% increase in buying power among U.S. Hispanics in the last decade inspired another jewelry manufacturer to invest in the niche. Phyllis Bergman, president, Mercury Ring Corp., Englewood, N.J., unveiled the Eterno Amor line of jewelry after a focus group revealed that second-generation Hispanics identify largely with pop icons who have a Hispanic heritage.

“Sears uses Christina Aguilera quite effectively as a spokesmodel,” Benavides observes.

Among Hispanics, traditional jewelry styles are consistently the most popular. “At the Miami show, we get about 75 customers from the Caribbean, all looking to buy Hispanic-inspired jewelry,” says Eddie Sarafoglu, partner, Comex, Los Angeles. “Hispanics still want religious and shiny and showy jewelry, but they’re also interested in pieces that are more lightweight.” Benavides agrees, noting in particular the popularity of lightweight earrings.

The Hispanic-American community—whose size nearly equals the number of residents in the state of California—is not monolithic, and preferences vary among the groups that make up the larger community. Sang Lee, owner of Lee’s Gold Import in Los Angeles, says Mexican-Americans like 14k and tricolored gold, and Benavides notes that Cuban-Americans and Puerto Ricans prefer 18k yellow gold. He advises jewelers to vary their selections. “Most Hispanics will own several quality pieces of karat-gold religious jewelry,” he says.

Lee believes the outlook for religious jewelry is good: “As long as the Hispanic population continues to increase, they’ll keep buying gold and religious jewelry.”

Other notable facts about jewelry bought by Hispanic Americans: Bracelets—including bangle and tennis—are big sellers; children’s jewelry is popular, especially among Cuban-Americans; and white gold jewelry is growing in popularity, according to Larry Wilens, a sales and marketing manager with Super Bell Jewelry, Los Angeles.

States with the Greatest Hispanic Buying Power

State 2001 Hispanic Buying Power (in billions of dollars)
Source: Selig Center for Economic Growth, Terry College of Business, The University of Georgia
California $137.6
Texas $75.0
Florida $44.1
New York $42.8
New Jersey $19.7
Illinois $18.8
Arizona $13.1
Colorado $9.1
New Mexico $8.8
Virginia $5.8

Population by Hispanic Origin and Region of Residence in 2000

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, March 2000
Northeast 14.1%
Midwest 7.9%
South 33.2%
West 44.7%

The Fastest Growing Hispanic Markets

State % Increase in Hispanic Buying Power from 1990-2001
Source: Selig Center for Economic Growth, Terry College of Business, The University of Georgia
Arkansas 316.6
Nevada 272.5
North Carolina 255.2
Georgia 250.6
Nebraska 233.8
Tennessee 227.8
Utah 198.7
Oregon 193.7
Iowa 191.7
Delaware 186.8

Top 50 Hispanic Markets by Hispanics’ Retail Sales

Market Retail Sales in Billions
Source: Strategy Research Corporation, Miami, Fla., (800) 741-5441, www.strategyresearch.com, 2002 U.S. Hispanic Market Report
Los Angeles $47.7
New York $28.3
Miami $14.6
San Francisco $10.8
Chicago $10.3
Houston $9.8
San Antonio $9.0
Dallas-Ft. Worth $7.5
Phoenix $5.6
San Diego $5.4

Population by Hispanic Origin and Age Group in 2000

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, March 2000
Hispanic Less than 18 35.7%
Non-Hispanic White Less than 18 23.5%
Hispanic 18-64 59.0%
Non-Hispanic White 18-64 62.4%
Hispanic 65 or older 5.3%
Non-Hispanic White 65 or older 14.0%

Median Household Incomes in the U.S. in 2000

Source: U.S. Census Bureau 2001 Current Population Survey
Hispanics $33,447
Non-Hispanic Whites $45,904
Blacks $30,439
Asians and Pacific Islanders $55,521
Median for all groups $42,148

Top 10 Markets by Hispanic Population

Region Population in Millions
Source: Strategy Research Corporation, 2002 U.S. Hispanic Market Report
Los Angeles 7.0
New York 4.0
Miami 1.7
Chicago 1.6
Houston 1.6
San Francisco 1.4
Dallas 1.3
San Antonio 1.2
Phoenix 1.0
McAllen, Texas 1.0

Full-Time Year-Round Workers with Annual Earnings of $35,000 or more by Detailed Hispanic Origin in 1999

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, March 2000
Non-Hispanic White 49.3%
Hispanic 23.3%
Mexican 20.6%
Puerto Rican 29.6%
Cuban 34.4%
Central and South American 24.5%

Top 10 Hispanic Markets by Per Capita Buying Power

Market Buying Power in Thousands of Dollars
Source: Strategy Research Corporation, 2002 U.S. Hispanic Market Report
Miami $15,382
Tampa, Fla. $12,716
Santa Barbara, Calif. $12,111
West Palm Beach, Fla. $12,062
Orlando, Fla. $11,942
San Francisco $11,920
New York $11,917
Boston $11,728
Ft. Myers-Naples, Fla. $11,630
Atlanta $11,629