Expo Reflects Diverse Design Preferences of Hispanic Consumers

OLNEY, MD — As the influence of Hispanic consumers increasingly impacts the U.S. market, it’s becoming clear that design preferences for this demographic will have a growing influence on the kitchen and bath.

Key design preferences for the Hispanic population include deep, rich colors, family-friendly layouts and space-saving appliances and cabinetry.

However, as with any demographic, there is no “one-size-fits-all” design solution. The Hispanic population is broad and diverse, and the design preferences associated with this group are equally broad. Accordingly, kitchen and bath designers must take this into account when planning their future showroom displays and offerings.

This is especially relevant today, as in the last decade, the Hispanic population has been the fastest growing segment in the U.S.

And if kitchen and bath designers don’t begin paying attention to this growing client base, they could be left behind.

Consider these facts:

  • Furniture spending is one of the areas where Hispanics outspend non-Hispanics (Source: Selig Center).
  • From 1990 to 2009, the buying power of the Hispanic market will grow at a rate of 8.2%, compared to 4.9% for non-Hispanics (Source: Selig Center).
  • The number of prosperous Hispanic households (those with an annual income of $100,000 or more) rose 137% from 1990 to 2000 (Source: U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce).

To help kitchen and bath designers – and other home improvement professionals – reach this growing market segment, Bill Herman, partner and COO for Agile Events, has created Expo Tu Casa, a show designed to be a comprehensive resource for home buying and home improvement for the U.S. Hispanic market. The show made its debut last month in Houston, TX, and a full schedule is planned for the rest of 2005 and 2006, with stops in Las Vegas, Dallas, Phoenix, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Produced in partnership with NBC-owned Telemundo television networks, it was conceived by Herman, along with partner and CEO Jim Forlenza, after the pair had attended the namesake event in Mexico over the course of several years. Herman believes the timing of a U.S. version of the show couldn’t have been better, given the aforementioned statistics.

“[I brought Expo Tu Casa to the U.S.] because the buying power of the Hispanic population is growing at rates that are staggering, reaching $1 trillion. The Hispanic market represents a huge potential source of sales for new homes, mortgages and loans, home furnishings, home improvement products and services and home design services,” he explains.

That’s why, he stresses, it’s absolutely critical that kitchen and bath designers take note of the needs and design preferences of this market segment so they are able to address these needs in the future, he states.

To that end, says Herman, each succeeding Expo Tu Casa will feature approximately 80 to 100 exhibiting companies, like the one in Houston, with notable participants including MasterBrand Cabinets, Whirlpool Corp. and Pella Windows, among others.

Each event will also showcase a variety of different products that are geared to the diverse tastes and needs the Hispanic population. Because of the diversity of the Hispanic population, every product won’t necessarily translate to every Hispanic audience, Herman cautions.

“We always need to be mindful of the vast differences in Hispanic cultures – what works for a family of Mexican descent may not be important to a family from Central or South America,” he states.

But he also believes there are certain commonalities that contribute to design preferences.

For instance, statistically, members of this demographic are marrying and starting families at a younger age, so the show will include products that are “family friendly,” such as space-saving appliances and cabinetry.

Herman believes designers who attend will see first-hand some of the other myriad design trends popular with this fast-growing market segment.

“In my many trips to Mexico, I’ve come to deeply appreciate the brilliant colors used in homes, furniture and pottery. When I travel to Ecuador with my wife, the colors are more muted and the beautiful pottery that we collect brings together hues and tones that are earthy. A designer [attending] our event would do well to pay attention to such details,” says Herman.

In addition, these shows give designers an opportunity to introduce themselves to Hispanic homeowners and potential homeowners in the various cities where the Expos are held, he notes.

“Designers who participate in Expo Tu Casa events as exhibitors would do well to listen closely to the visitors about things like color and appliance selection,” he adds.

Home Focus

In addition to the exhibit floor, each Expo Tu Casa will continue to feature two different areas of on-going demonstration and educational sessions, all focusing on the home environment.

“The demonstration stage is more product-oriented, while the education sessions are more process-oriented,” Herman explains.

Additionally, he notes that the sessions meld together several cultural and practical aspects of the home, such as space-saving cabinetry that employs the colors and woods of Mexico.

While strong market demand was a major factor in creating the Expo events, Herman notes that a lot of his interest in bringing the Expo Tu Casa to the U.S. stems from personal shopping experiences he’s had with his wife, who is from Ecuador.

“[My wife and I] would attend Hispanic-oriented events that were labeled as business fairs or lifestyle expos, but they turned out to be extremely broad in their product focus and not professionally produced. At those events it was not unusual to see the U.S Army next to a dress maker, which was next to a car battery salesman.”

Therefore, Herman’s goal has been to provide a vertical, product-specific atmosphere that is professionally produced, and that focuses on the home needs of Hispanic families.

“U.S. [home products] companies need professional vehicles that allow them to put their products in front of a group with this level of purchasing strength. But, most importantly, our visitors deserve a marketplace that treats them with respect and shows them that their business is valuable,” he believes.

Bilingual Buying

Herman believes that “bilingual messaging” is a vital component of reaching the Hispanic consumer, as well.

“There is a natural uncertainty [among Hispanic consumers] about purchasing when dealing in English. That barrier disappears when [they] can shop in Spanish,” he explains.

“Therefore, you must understand what resonates with the Hispanic audience [if you’re going to sell to them effectively]. Simply taking the general audience text that you’ve used in the past and then translating it may not be effective. When you address the specific issue in a bilingual manner, then you’re heading in the right direction,” Herman adds.

To that end, Herman feels that marketing to Hispanic consumers should include references to key cultural touchstones, such as music, sports and food.

“[For Houston], we had mariachi bands play, which are [very popular] across Texas. We also changed the menus at the concession stands to include fare [that is appealing to Hispanic cultures],” he notes. “Now, in Los Angeles, we’re bringing in Adrian Fernandez, the Mexican-American open-wheel driver.”

For more information about an upcoming Expo Tu Casa, contact Agile Events at 301-603-1900 or visit www.expotucasausa.com.