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    Retailers Lag Behind in Hispanic Hiring

    VNU Retail Index finds only 22 percent of retailers recruit Latino employees.

    NEW YORK -- While the most recently released figures from the U.S. Census Department reveal that one of every seven Americans is now of Latino heritage, the retail industry appears to be behind the curve in recruiting and hiring Hispanic employees.

    Although the U.S. Latino population has reached 41.3 million, only 22 percent of retailers surveyed last month by the VNU Retail Index reported that their company made any special efforts in the past year to specifically recruit Latino employees. The VNU Retail Index is a monthly survey of 500 convenience, drug, grocery, mass and specialty retailers across the country. The questionnaire polls retailers about their view of current and future business conditions, and queries them on various timely topics, such as their hiring practices.

    Half of the country's population growth of 2.9 million between July 2003 and July 2004 is attributed to the surge in the Latino population, reported the Los Angeles Times. The Latino population grew by 3.6 percent, compared with an overall increase of just 1 percent in the U.S. population, census reported.

    Of the 22 percent who said they did make special efforts to recruit Hispanic employees, two said their efforts were centered around colleges and job fairs, while a third, a c-store operator, said they used Latino job training centers associated with the local Chambers of Commerce.

    Others said they ask Hispanic customers if they know anyone looking for a job, and others said they used local Spanish-language newspapers to advertise openings.

    One supermarket operator said education is the key to being able to hire more Latino workers. “We launched a very broad detailed program specifically for Hispanics,” said the retailer. “Internally, Spanish language classes are being held so a wider population of employees is at least able to say hello.”

    In a similar vein, another supermarket operated added: “We hired a Hispanic coordinator to work with Hispanic situations and we send all correspondence to employees in both English and Spanish.”

    One supermarket noted that it had engaged a recruiting firm that specializes in hiring Hispanic talent.

    Of all the ways to attract Hispanic employees, perhaps the most successful has been through referrals. “We have many (Hispanics) on staff in key positions who refer perspective new hires,” said one retailer. Another added: “Our biggest success has been with referrals from other Hispanic associates.”

    The news about Hispanic hiring activities is not all bad on the retail front. Among those who said they were not doing anything special to attract Hispanic workers, many did note that looking to recruit and develop across all races, and they especially value bilingual associates even if they do not have a separate program specifically designed to find and hire Hispanic talent.

    And, many others, because of their geographic location, said Hispanic recruiting efforts were just “not applicable” in their market.

    Recruiting and hiring Hispanic employees will also be addressed during seminars at the upcoming Hispanic Retail 360 Conference & Expo, being held Sept. 26-27, 2005, in Dallas. Produced by the Retail Group of VNU Business Publications and VNU Exhibitions, the Hispanic Retail 360 Conference & Expo will focus on the implementation of ethnic marketing and merchandising strategies at the store level. For more information or to register, go to www.hispanicretail360.com.

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