It’s not just a new year. It’s a whole new world out there

Retailers today must adopt new ways of doing things to reach burgeoning multiethnic, multiracial shopping groups

When Wee Willie Keeler, a small, but superb contact hitter who played for the Baltimore Orioles and Brooklyn Superbas back in the 1900s was asked for his secret to his success, he quipped, “Hit them where they ain’t.”

But selling furniture ain’t baseball, and for years, the playbook for many furniture retailers was to play to the mainstream population. 

And while anyone who watched “A League of Their Own” knows there’s no crying in baseball, retailers still hoping to score by not playing to the new mainstream may find themselves striking out.

Here’s why: What used to be their mainstream — a White (Non-Hispanic) Mom, Dad and 2.5 kids — is no longer the mainstream.

In fact, according to the 2020 United States Census Bureau, virtually all of the country’s population growth in the last decade was credited to Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Native and other indigenous, multiethnic and multiracial communities.

In case we somehow missed it, I’m here to gently remind us that for some time now, the buying power no longer only belongs to Ward, Julie, Wally and Beaver Cleaver. 

And for those retailers not swinging for the bleachers in hopes of connecting with these multiethnic, multiracial communities, you are missing out on a big chunk of change, with sources maintaining these groups represent some $5 trillion in buying power.

For anyone who doubts the opportunities, talk to anyone in the Capo family. While they have customers from all nationalities and ethnic groups, I’m sure they will proudly tell you that their family fully embraced the idea of the American Dream by building the largest Hispanic-owned furniture retail entity in the United States.

On a smaller scale, Pulaski Furniture was years ahead of the crowd when it sought to lure the Latino market via a collaboration with then-Latino TV talk show star Christina Saralegui back in 2005.

I remember sitting in meetings with some of the execs at Pulaski whose research determined that home ownership among Hispanics at that time had spiked by 21% between 1994 and 2004.

Pulaski’s research also indicated that Hispanic households had spent just shy of $7 billion on home furnishings in 2003, a number the manufacturer correctly felt deserved pursuing. 

Take a minute and click this link to the U.S. Census, which will show you exactly how the population of the country has changed. 

Other industries that live or die by selling goods to consumers are already on the bandwagon and have allocated resources to understand, target and successfully sell to the burgeoning multiethnic, multiracial communities.

Big proponents of this opportunity include guys like Marc Pritchard, who is the chief brand officer at Procter & Gamble.

In presentations he has made around the country on this topic, Pritchard has asserted that the greatest opportunity for market share can come from targeting diverse audiences. As evidence, when he spoke at a recent Association of National Advertisers conference, he confirmed that half of Proctor & Gamble’s current growth is coming from Black, Hispanic and Asian Pacific consumers.

He went on to acknowledge that while many of the P&G brands had market shares near the national average, others were well below that, and admitted that if P&G were able to close the gap on those underperforming brands, that could translate into more than $500 million in new sales yearly.

Granted, while the sales of most furniture retailers would be eclipsed by a giant like P&G, the math, while proportionately smaller, would still work out in favor of the furniture retailers. So, while this all sounds great, what’s involved to grow your business with multiethnic and multiracial communities?

Since P&G under Pritchard’s vision is doing just that, it’s probably best to let the advice come from him. Here’s what he told attendees at the Association of National Advertisers Conference:

+ It takes hard work and mindsets must embrace the concept that multicultural marketing has become mainstream marketing.

+ Casting in any advertising has to be “at least proportionate” to the current composition of the U.S. population.

+ The messaging in those ads has to be relevant and “portray people accurately and authentically.”

+ You should consider upping your spending to support media properties that are owned by members of the diverse communities you are trying to reach.

It is so much more than a new year. It is a new world out there and we simply can’t do business the way we used to.

The Cleavers still live in the neighborhood and are still good customers. But so are their neighbors who happen to be Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders, Native and other indigenous, multiethnic and multiracial communities.

While their traditions, backgrounds, dialects and languages may differ, they share the dream of beautiful homes.

Are you speaking their language?  

To come full circle and cross home plate, I bet if Wee Willy were playing ball today, he would advise you to “Hit them where they really are.”

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