Magic Markets

Seniors and Hispanics

Hot Market No. 4: Seniors

America is turning gray. In 2003, 35.8 million Americans were older than 65; this year, 36.1 million will be older than 65. By 2022, the number will reach 57.5 million, says MarketResearch.com, an aggregator of published market research.

"This market is going to be the fastest-growing population in the country over the next 20 years," says Don Montuori, editor of Packaged Facts, the Rockville, Maryland, consumer goods and demographics publishing division owned by MarketResearch.com. In 2002, MarketResearch.com estimated U.S. consumers older than 65 had $713 billion in buying power. By 2007, their buying power is expected to increase to $974 billion. With child rearing and house payments a distant memory, "[seniors] spend more of their income than other age groups," Montuori says. An added bonus: Senior citizens are more receptive to ads and fliers. "They have more time to read," Montuori says.

The older-than-65 demographic, however, is overlooked in our youth-obsessed marketing culture, leaving money to be made for companies that target it. Consider TV network CBS, which has gone against the grain to target an older demographic with shows such as Joan of Arcadia and consistently has programs ranked in Nielsen's top 10.

Medical services is another hot area of this market. Two years ago, Laura Berry invested $10,000 and won an SBA loan to start Soundview Medical Supply, a company that sells home health-care products-from incontinence items to nutritional supplements-aimed at seniors. The Seattle company grew 36 percent per quarter last year and 2004 sales are expected to exceed $1 million. "We had astronomical growth in 2003," Berry, 42, says. "And we're still growing."

Today's grandparents like to spend money on their grandkids-according to sales and marketing information firm NPD Group, grandparents' purchases accounted for 16 percent of the $21 billion-per-year toy industry-and companies such as Grandtravel, a Washington, DC, company that provides exotic travel opportunities for grandparents and their grandchildren, are tapping new market opportunities. For some older Americans, however, time with the grandkids isn't limited to Sunday visits: Nearly 400,000 grandparents over age 65 now have the primary responsibility for grandchildren who live with them, according to government statistics. Think creatively, and you could have a "senior moment" that turns into a lucrative business.

Hot Market No. 5: Hispanics

Hispanics have become an economic force: Thirteen and a half percent of the U.S. population is now Hispanic, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and 1 in 5 new births in the United States are to Hispanic families. By 2020, 1 in 4 Americans will be Hispanic.

U.S. Hispanic purchasing power in 2004 will hit $700 billion, according to HispanTelligence, the research arm of Hispanic Business magazine. "If this number is reached, the Hispanic market will surpass the African-American market in purchasing power," says Rosanna M. Fiske, principal of Rise Strategies, a Miami marketing and communications company focused on the U.S. Hispanic marketplace. By 2010, Hispanic spending could reach $1 trillion.

National department store chain Kohl's carries clothing by celebrity Daisy Fuentes, while Kmart hawks a line by Mexican singer-actress Thalia. In April, Perry Ellis International launched two Latin-inspired lines, Cubavera and Havanera, the latter to be manufactured for J.C. Penney. Hispanics "are making more money, and they're spending it. This has the attention of the big companies," says John Terry, who recently researched the Hispanic market as an adjunct professor at Southern Methodist University's Caruth Institute for Entrepreneurship and partner with management consulting firm Churchill Terry, both in Dallas.

Rafael Jimenez is founder of Republica Trading Co., a New York City company that produces Latino-inspired shirts, hats and denim sold at Bloomingdale's, Fred Segal, hip boutiques nationwide, and through the company's web site. Jimenez, 36, projects his company will hit $1 million in sales in 2004. "You can't get around the numbers [in this market]," he says. "It's only going to get bigger."

Financial services, technology, translation and wire services-even college camps that help young Hispanics assimilate from a tightknit family culture into college life-present hot opportunities. "Twenty years ago, the Hispanic market was a product-driven market," Fiske says. "It's turned into a services-geared market." It's also a young demographic-67 percent of U.S. Hispanics are less than 34 years old, Terry says.

Although Cubans, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and many other Hispanic nationalities speak a common language, they have different cultures. A blanket marketing approach won't attract Hispanics, who become very loyal customers once they find products and services they like. "It's a complex market because of its diversity," Fiske says. "[But] this is going to be the market to watch."

Straight From the Resource
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Chris Penttila is a Washington, DC-based freelance journalist who covers workplace issues on her blog, Workplacediva.blogspot.com.

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This article was originally published in the September 2004 print edition of Entrepreneur's StartUps with the headline: Magic Markets.

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