Home chains focus on Hispanic market

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Ikea has joined the ranks of home-improvement and decor retailers tapping the Hispanic market, which now accounts for 13% of first-time homebuyers.

The Swedish furniture retailer hired Anita Santiago Advertising, a Hispanic specialist agency based in Santa Monica, Calif., to handle efforts aimed at California's sizable Hispanic population.

"This is a real first step, getting into those markets to figure out a way to communicate," said Rich D'Amico, new-business development manager at Ikea North America.

Other shelter retailers are also busy courting this market. Lowe's recently hired a trio of agencies, including a Hispanic shop, to handle multicultural advertising, while rival Home Depot-which has run Hispanic efforts from Interpublic Group of Cos.' Casanova Pendrill for several years-placed bilingual signs and Spanish-speaking salespeople in stores in key markets as part of its efforts to reinvigorate the brand.

"The U.S. has clearly become a multicultural country and we're committed to meeting the needs of all our customers," said John Costello, Home Depot's exec VP-marketing and merchandising and chief marketing officer.

Home ownership among Hispanic households has grown from 41.2% in 1994 to 46.7% in 2003, according to data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. But that figure still lags far behind the 68.3% for all households and several government programs are targeting an increase in Hispanic home ownership.

"We want to make sure the Ikea concept is communicated in a way the Hispanic consumer understands," Ikea's Mr. D'Amico said. Concepts such as multigenerational living and assimilation have to be studied and factored into the efforts, he said.

While the Hispanic efforts will be initially based in California-and possibly the Tempe, Ariz., market, after Ikea opens there in November-Mr. D'Amico said the company anticipates it will eventually have a national Hispanic effort. The in-house advertising department is already working on a Spanish version of its catalog, which will go into U.S. stores this summer. Ikea has also been advertising in Spanish-language TV for several years, by adapting English-language ads done by its lead agency, Crispin Porter & Bogusky, said Mr. D'Amico.

"We think this segment has tremendous potential for us," he said.

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