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With 180 of its 800 mall locations benefiting from an Hispanic customer base, Sears, Roebuck & Co. long has recognized its fortunes were tied to the U.S.' growing minority population.

Now Sears, under Robert R. Davila, director of ethnic marketing, is looking to bring into its fold the Asian population.

But that's no simple task. First, the stores have to adjust their merchandise for the right sizes and colors. Then there's the communications issues; each Asian group has its own language.

The differences are so many "you just can't cookie-cut it," says Mr. Davila, 33, who is forging ahead, for the first time this year developing Chinese and Korean TV spots.

Because ideas such as "satisfaction guaranteed" are not easily translated into Asian languages, Sears, through agency Kang & Lee Advertising, New York, has used traditional Asian symbols as part of marketing messages.

Just as it has for the Hispanic community, Sears is stepping up its presence in the Asian community through sponsorship of events such as the Chinese new year and the Vietnamese Tet festival.

"You have to do all the right things, and you also must get involved in the communities," says Mr. Davila.

He says Sears' ethnic-designated stores fare better than non-ethnic ones. "And these customers are a lot more loyal to Sears."

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