HISPANIC INDEPENDENTS URGE VENDORS NOT TO OVERLOOK THEM

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -- In a series of presentations at the Mexican American Grocers Association's convention here, Hispanic retailers told suppliers they should not overlook the independent operator and its role in the Hispanic community.Mariano Diaz, owner of a C-Town Market in New York City, said Hispanic retailers in urban areas can make things happen. "The Hispanic market is so big, it's become

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -- In a series of presentations at the Mexican American Grocers Association's convention here, Hispanic retailers told suppliers they should not overlook the independent operator and its role in the Hispanic community.

Mariano Diaz, owner of a C-Town Market in New York City, said Hispanic retailers in urban areas can make things happen. "The Hispanic market is so big, it's become the general market," Diaz said.

Manufacturers can't go to sleep, Diaz said. "They must adjust to the changing marketplace and realize that the role of the store owner is a very important one in penetrating the Hispanic market." Diaz's remarks came at MAGA's 10th annual convention.

Jerry Valenzuela, director of sales and marketing for Food 4 Less Supermarkets, La Habra, Calif., said many manufacturers still claim they're trying to understand the Hispanic market. Food 4 Less operates Viva Supermercados, an Hispanic-oriented format.

"There are 32 million Hispanics in the U.S., growing at a rate of 3 million to 4 million per year," Valenzuela said. "If you [vendors] view Hispanics as a social problem rather than a growth opportunity, then you will never be able to include them in your business."

Dick Gordon, president of El Tapatio Market, Los Angeles, said he believes the level and frequency of manufacturer promotions are not the same for independent retailers as for chains.

"My advice [to manufacturers] is, go back to your organizations and look at how your programs are structured," Gordon said. "It's harder for manufacturers to deal with independents because they require more visits. But they will give you more bang for your bucks."

Hispanics will use coupons if they are offered in a culturally sensitive manner, Gordon added.

"But the problem comes in the delivery vehicle manufacturers choose. We like price point coupons -- advertising an item at a certain price with a coupon -- rather than a cents-off coupon, because it's more understandable."

Maria Silva, owner of El Burrito Mercado, St. Paul, Minn., said she had been rebuffed by a food broker in her area when she called to discuss her company's plans to expand.

"I had heard him on the radio talking about his company's plans to expand its reach into the community, but when I talked to him, he was reluctant to help us because we didn't do enough volume to make it worth the effort," Silva said.

"This is a reality in life. But for a minority-owned business to succeed, it requires hard work by us and a change in the attitude of corporate America to work with us to make more success stories."