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What's new in various product categories; monthly update.

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Thoughts on the Hispanic Market

There's potential for the industry, if you understand the culture. 

by Barbara Hartnett (January 15, 2007)

(Note: In light of the upcoming CHA show seminars on the Hispanic market, and as a follow-up on the market data on Hispanics published in the 12/18/06 issue, CLN is reprinting an article by Barbara Hartnett, who is the Executive Director of Friendship House, a United Way agency in Peoria, IL. Friendship House conducts a wide variety of programs for the area's Hispanic population English and GED classes, an Alcoholic Anonymous group, Boy and Girl Scout groups, and other programs. With the help of industry vendors, Friendship House has a Hispanic Warm Up America! chapter; every Tuesday morning 10-20 Hispanic women visit Friendship House and make afghans and blankets for people even poorer than they are.)

1. My knowledge is very, very narrow and limited to poor, recent immigrants, only from Mexico. They are quite different in some ways from immigrants from Cuba or Puerto Rico, so it's dangerous to lump all these groups under the "Hispanic" label.

2. The HIA study [published in 2002) was conducted only in large cities, only of people with published telephone numbers. Was the interview done in Spanish?

3. Many speak no English and therefore, read no English. Many have no telephones, although teens are slowly getting cell phones. Computers are rare.

4. Often their reading ability in Spanish is low because they dropped out of school in rural Mexico in 4th or 5th grade.

5. They have a strong family and religious orientation, so crafts are often done in the context of celebrating baptisms, first communions, etc.

6. Often they have no cars, so they shop where they live and pay what they have to for necessities; or they do have cars but little money, so discount stores and thrift stores are their primary choices.

7. There is a respect for the elderly, but a disdain for the "old country" ways wherein traditional crafts often fall. Among recent Mexican immigrants, the generational division is greater in many ways than what we are used to, because the kids get "Americanized" very quickly. But if craft retailers can translate teen trends into crafts that can be made cheaper than readymades, there may be a market for the younger crowd -- i.e. friendship bracelets, not embroidered shawls. The skills grandmother can teach must be translated into new, hip products.

8. Among Mexicans especially, compared to other Hispanic groups, there is less disposable income because they send billions of dollars back to family in Mexico.

9. An important key for craft retailers, I think, is to focus on the escapism and social aspects of crafting for Mexican women. This is still a strongly sexist culture -- most women don't work outside the home, few of them drive, and often they have large families. In many places, the work of the men is seasonal and the women are alone for long periods of time. The older children are in school and their parents are in Mexico. A knitting/crocheting group is a safe, socially acceptable outlet for them to get together, out of the house, with their husbands' permission.

(Note: CHA Seminars include "The Essential Hispanic Market Overview" (S119), Sun., 3-4:15 pm for retailers, manufacturers, and designers ... "Capturing Your Share of the Hispanic Craft Market" (S127), Mon., 11:00 am-12:15 pm for retailers ... "In-Culture Design: How to Optimize Your Creativity for the Hispanic Retail Market'' (S133), Tues., 10:00-11:15 am for designers. Tickets are $25 for CHA members, $50 for non-members. Visit www.chashow.org.

Barbara is also the life-long non-crafter who became hooked on jewelry-making. Since her first class less than two years ago, Barbara has sold approximately $10,000 worth of her creations. To read a first-hand account of her adventures in professional crafting, click on "An Eyewitness Report on the Jewelry Phenomenon," Parts I, II, and III, in the right-hand column.)



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