Estimated at 42.5 million, Hispanics are the largest and fastest-growing minority group in the U.S., representing 14 percent of the population. By 2010, their numbers should reach 52 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The annual median household income for Hispanics in the U.S. surpassed $40,000 and their disposable income is growing. By now many retailers have developed exclusive apparel brands designed by Latino celebrities. But is that enough? “Developing an apparel line isn’t an end-all,” said Luis Garcia, president of Garcia360, a San Antonio-based Hispanic consultancy. “What’s necessary is the development of an integrated solution that addresses the Hispanic market from every angle, from employing Hispanics at the management level to showing a corporate commitment to the community.”

This story first appeared in the July 1, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

    Percentage of population: 94.8

    According to the 2000 U.S. Census, the median household income in Laredo is $29,108, well below the state average of $39,927. On the other hand, retailers in this busy border-crossing city do a brisk business with Mexican daytrippers. The Mall Del Norte is one of the biggest shopping centers in Texas and the area has a spate of outlet malls. El Portal Center, part of a downtown redevelopment project with 400,000 square feet of retail space, is being spearheaded by the city of Laredo.
    Percentage of population: 89.5

    McAllen had to contend with 15 percent unemployment in 2003 and a median household income of $26,977 for residents compared with $42,409 for the nation. Still, there’s no shortage of places to shop in the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission area. Much of the money that pours into McAllen and surrounding border areas comes from wealthy Mexicans living across the border in Monterrey, which has the highest per capita concentration of millionaires in that country.
    Percentage of population: 85.2

    The percentage of the Brownsville population under 18 years old is 34.6, compared with a statewide average of 28.2 percent. Stores such as Target are studying traffic patterns and the needs of local consumers. The retailer recognizes the importance Latinos place on family. While Target doesn’t necessarily offer different merchandise, it reconfigures stores in Hispanic-dense areas, moving children’s apparel and baby departments to the front.
  4. EL PASO, TEX.
    Percentage of population: 82.3

    Cielo Vista Mall caters to El Paso’s population and draws consumers from across the border in Mexico. When Foley’s opened in the mall in 2002, the department store distributed fliers to residents in nearby Mexican towns. A proposed upscale shopping mall called Towne Centre may be in jeopardy if the city can’t pull together a financial package, which includes bond financing.
    Percentage of population: 66.7

    With the Organ Mountains, Rio Grande Valley and Picacho Peak, Las Cruces’ natural beauty helped land it on the list of best cities in which to retire, according to Money magazine. Las Crucens shop at Mesilla Valley Mall, Sunland Park Mall and Cielo Vista in nearby El Paso. While Sunland Park caters to a higher income customer, the more populist Cielo Vista gets twice as many shoppers.
  6. MIAMI
    Percentage of population: 60.4

    Miami’s Hispanic majority wields enormous spending power. The city has a range of shopping venues, from the upscale Bal Harbour Shops to Aventura, one of the largest regional malls in the country. Miami International Mall — anchors include Burdine’s, Dillard’s, J.C. Penney and Sears — has a consumer base that’s 82 percent Hispanic. Customers, including tourists, have an average household income of about $55,000 and spend about $207 per visit, according to the shopping center.
    Percentage of population: 57.5

    Corpus Christi’s economy is fueled in part by tourism. The beaches are the main draw, but cultural offerings include an art museum designed by Philip Johnson, and an aquarium. The memory of first daughter Selena, the Tejano pop star murdered in 1995, is honored with a museum. Shopping includes the Padre Staples Mall and Crossroads Shopping Village.
    Percentage of population: 53.8

    With a median household income of over $44,000, San Antonio has been targeted by the Rouse Company for its 1.3 million-square-foot The Shops at La Cantera. While the area is not lacking retail, the population is growing at a fast clip. The mall, scheduled to open in October 2005, has an anchor lineup that includes the market’s first Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus plus Dillard’s and Foley’s. For factory outlet bargains, San Antonians drive 30 miles to New Braunfels or 45 miles to San Marcos.
    Percentage of population: 53.5

    Kohl’s in March launched a Daisy Fuentes clothing line designed by the Cuban-born model and talk show hostess. Kohl’s hopes the alliance with Fuentes will shore up its performance, which has been suffering declining same-store sales. While the chain said it never set out to specifically target Hispanic customers, Fuentes should pull in the much-sought-after Latino shoppers in California, where the company continues to open new stores.
  10. YUMA, ARIZ.
    Percentage of population: 53.3

    Day-tripping shoppers from Mexico spend some $160 million annually, according to the Yuma County Chamber of Commerce. The 85,000 winter visitors or “snowbirds” who descend on the city also contribute to the economy, as does the Marine Air Corps Station. Yuma Palms, a 1 million-square-foot regional shopping center, will be completed next year with tenants such as Dillard’s, J.C. Penney, Sam’s Club and Marshall’s.