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    Highlights From Hispanic Retail 360 Summit

    By Debby Garbato

    SAN ANTONIO -- A presentation by Texas-based pizza chain Pizza Patrón and a panel discussion featuring executives from Northgate, Kroger and Walmart were among the highlights of the 2014 Hispanic Retail 360 Summit. Celebrating its 10th year, the three-day event wrapped up Friday.

    Led by Nielsen Hispanic Market Director Rick Parra, the panel discussion focused on the evolving and assimilating Hispanic consumer, with an emphasis on the proper use of data, addressing acculturation and moving away from “silos” to a total market approach.

    “Our customers are becoming more acculturated,” said Tom Herman, senior vice president of Northgate Gonzalez Market, a traditional Hispanic grocery chain. “Customers [in general] are becoming more acculturated. In addition to the foreign-born, the second and third generations are growing.”

    At Kroger, many decisions are driven by data. “What’s most important is how we use that data,” said Angel Colón, director of multicultural development for the grocery and convenience store retailer. “Data tells you how to optimize stores regardless of who you are.”

    Meanwhile at Walmart, its “total market” approach has meant doing away with Hispanic-specific initiatives, such as its Supermercado Walmart format. “We didn’t move forward with it because it was telling people our other stores wouldn’t work for them,” said Javier M. Delgado-Granados, director of marketing.

    On the foodservice end, Pizza Patrón Brand Director Andrew Gamm explained how the chain created pizza and toppings that appeal to the Latino palette and backed up its efforts with “disruptive” advertising that has generated national publicity. Despite negative media reports, all the exposure has significantly boosted sales and improved the chain’s credibility with its first-generation, Mexican-American customer base.

    Another company with an unusual history is Curacao. Founder Jerry Azarkman told Hispanic Retail 360 Summit attendees how he arrived in the United States from Israel in 1973 with no college education, no green card, little money and unable to speak English or Spanish. Azarkman spent his last few dollars on television games that he sold to Hispanic consumers at a profit.

    Today, Curacao’s sales total $50 million. The business is driven largely by a program that targets people who cannot obtain credit through traditional means.

    Summit attendees were also drawn to the conference’s Cultural Immersion Tour, which took place Wednesday. Highlights of this tour included a visit to HEB Plus, whose fresh food department is reminiscent of a traditional Mexican market -- the produce section alone features several varieties of peppers. HEB's other fresh offerings include Aguas Frescas, Mexican baked goods, guacamole prepared on-premise, and the Sabores Kitchen, a takeout concept featuring popular dishes from home.

    A second retailer on the Cultural Immersion Tour, Goodwill, educated participants about the many challenges faced by low-income consumers. Using proceeds from its stores, Goodwill’s Good Careers Academy trains people for jobs ranging from nurse’s aide to truck driver. The company said 80 percent of graduates get jobs.

    In addition, a referral program provides students with help paying rent and utilities, childcare, transportation and other issues that company executives labeled as “employment barriers.” Sixty-three percent of people coming into the Goodwill career centers are Hispanic.

    By Debby Garbato
    • About Debby Garbato
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