Diverse America

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Diverse America

America's growing ethnic and racial diversity has spread to nearly every state. According to figures released last month by the U.S. Census Bureau, every state in the nation, with the exception of West Virginia, saw an increase in the share of their population that is composed of minority groups. The figures are from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey. Some other findings:

Hispanics — defined as people with ethnic backgrounds in Spanish-speaking countries — grabbed an even larger share of the total minority population, with 14.5 percent. Blacks were next at 12.8 percent.

Non-Hispanic whites are a minority in four states — Hawaii, New Mexico, California and Texas, as well as the District of Columbia. The share of white people fell below 60 percent in three other states — Maryland, Georgia and Nevada. Nationally, non-Hispanic whites made up about 67 percent of the population last year, down from 70 percent in 2000.

California, New York, Texas and Florida still have the nation's largest immigrant populations, but the new data show that immigrants will settle in other states if there are jobs available. South Carolina's immigrant population grew by 47 percent since 2000, more than any other state, and the Hispanic population grew fastest in Arkansas, by 48 percent.

The new data verifies much of the information presented last month at a major industry conference aimed at helping retailers address the growing importance of the Latino consumer market. Convenience Store News was proud to co-host the second annual Hispanic Retail 360 Summit in Chicago. In addition to demographic and market trend data, the Summit also presented case studies and best practices aimed at helping retailers better serve the growing Latino population in the United States.

While the conference was a true cross-retail channel event — with representatives from such diverse chains as Best Buy, TJ Maxx, Ace Hardware, CVS, Wal-Mart and Kroger — we were glad to see many of our c-store industry brethren as well, including 7-Eleven, Chevron and Speedway SuperAmerica, to name a few. This diversity of retailer representation illustrates how the changing makeup of the U.S. population is affecting far more than just what a retailer sells. Everything a retailer does, from marketing and special events to in-store signage and employee relations, is influenced by the growing Latino consumer market. (For a complete conference recap, see story on pages 40-44 of this issue.)

One thing that really struck us during the best practices presentations was that — at least for now — it is the smaller — oftentimes independent — retailer that is miles ahead of the big chains in understanding and catering to the Latino consumer. Listening to independent retailers like Tomas Silva of El Burrito Mercado in Minneapolis and Bill MacAloney of JAX Markets in southern California reminds us once again about the importance of being close to your local market and having your store reflect the local community.

And it was our closing speaker, Nicolás Medina, global standards & practices manager for ExxonMobil Corp., who placed the entire Hispanic market boom into perspective. For all the collective insights and strategies we heard during the three-day Summit, Medina pointed out that it's all about the basics of good retailing. "Latino customers want clean bathrooms as much as any other customer," he pointed out. In the final analysis, "It's all about people," Medina concluded. "If we don't make the commitment to put more Latinos in positions, especially higher level, nothing is going to happen. It's about transferring knowledge. It's about retaining good employees. It's about passion and energy."

No seminar or conference can teach passion and energy. The retailers who have passion and energy are the retailers who will win with today's consumer.