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    Reach Out and Diversify

    The Hispanic population boom has been making headlines for the past several years, and the demographic shift is gaining attention in the convenience store industry on numerous fronts. Frustrated in the past by limited success in attracting Latino customers to their stores, many convenience store operators now realize the importance of hiring bilingual Hispanic employees as an important first step in appealing to those customers.

    The Hispanic population boom has been making headlines for the past several years, and the demographic shift is gaining attention in the convenience store industry on numerous fronts. Frustrated in the past by limited success in attracting Latino customers to their stores, many convenience store operators now realize the importance of hiring bilingual Hispanic employees as an important first step in appealing to those customers.

    Retailers can change their product mix to include Latino favorites, incorporate Spanish language or bilingual promotional signs in the stores, advertise in popular local Spanish language newspapers, radio stations and cable television stations, but few of those tactics will be as powerful as hiring Hispanic employees.

    Not only will these employees be able to better communicate with Latino customers and create a more comfortable shopping environment, they will be able to help operators make slight – yet enormously significant – adjustments to their stores that will not only attract Hispanic customers, but keep them coming back to the stores. And, of course, word-of-mouth marketing from these employees who have positive things to say about those stores in their communities will only boost credibility and shopper usage, not to mention bring operators a new pool of potential hires.

    As marketers, one of the best rewards of well serving the Hispanic community is that they are highly loyal consumers and employees, not to mention that their work ethic is incredibly strong, according to multiple sources of research.

    And while many operators think about Hispanic communities as being concentrated on the West Coast, Florida, Texas, New York, Chicago and the like, they may be surprised to find that concentrated communities exceeding the national average are emerging in unexpected places and will continue as growth markets over the next several years. They include Boise City, Idaho; Minneapolis; Charlotte, N.C., Atlanta; Washington, D.C., and Middlesex, N.J., to name just a few.

    Data for individual communities is readily available from the U.S. Census Bureau. Retailers that have not investigated the population trends in their market area, do so now so they can prepare and reap the rewards of marketing to this population segment with money to spend. Disposable income among Hispanics is up nearly 29 percent since 2001, twice the growth rate of the general U.S. consumer.

    An added benefit is traditional recruitment tactics will help attract Latino employees. C-store company recruiters and human resources professionals will have to get creative. They need to reach out to the Hispanic community, go to places, organizations, churches, sporting events and festivals that they frequent and are important to them. Retailers that reach out to the community and let them know they care and support what is important to Latinos, will gain the trust and respect of the community. That's the beginning of building a loyal employee and customer base, and the diversity it yields is a wonderfully rewarding result.

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