At 30 million strong, the U.S. Latino population is growing faster than any other minority group and almost five times faster than the general population. In fact, Latinos are expected to become America’ s largest ethnic group by the year 2010, with African Americans and Asians not far behind. McGraw-Hill recently predicted that Latino buying power will nearly double to $677 billion by 2005. Another study conducted by the University of Georgia indicated that buying power among African Americans will reach $533 billion by the end of this year, an increase of 73% from 1990.

Contrary to popular belief, ethnic minorities are big business in the U.S., and many in the salon industry – from nail technicians to manufacturers – are realizing the need to cater to these groups in a way that is much different from the mainstream.

Unique Retailing Ideas

Maisie Dunbar has been a nail technician for almost seven years an in that time, she’s come up with creative ways of retailing products to her largely African-American clientele. Dunbar, who is African American herself and owner of M&M Nails in Silver Spring, Md., says the main difference between African American and Caucasian patrons is that the former are not as quick to purchase retail products as the latter. “Retailing to African Americans is a serious challenge because they feel they do not need to buy any products,” she says. “They won’t buy a bottle of polish and use it at home. They’ll come to the salon instead.”

Dunbar says she has mastered a way to get her clients to buy from her instead of drug stores: She packages her products with her services. In fact, she tells clients that in order for them to have healthy nails and cuticles, they must purchase the necessary tools. Dunbar is so sure of her services that she will offer clients free manicures if their treatments don’t seem to be working. One of her services, the Nail Cultivation Manicure, includes hot oil and paraffin treatments as well as cuticle oil, cuticle cream, and nail hardener. At $45, the manicure may be a bit pricier than at other salons, but Dunbar says clients don’t mind – after all, they do get to take a product home. “You may have to do some initial selling, but after a while, the product sells itself,” she says.

Before selling a product, Dunbar always tests it on herself and on family members. She believes that in order for an item to sell, she must fully believe in it.

Besides including products with her services, Dunbar also offers clients little extras during the holidays. She will usually hand out trial sizes of the products she sells. “Once my clients use it, they want to buy more of the product because they realize it works,” she says.

Breaking Down Language Barriers

Although Misa does not make or market products with any particular ethnic group in mind, the company’s wide range of vivid nail colors seems to attract plenty of Latinos.

Michael Galella, president of First Beauty Inc., a Misa distributor, says that although there is a language barrier, non-English speaking clients share the same interests as those who speak the language. They all lean toward being in style. They’re very fashion oriented,” he says.

Galella, who is based in Maplewood, N.J., has nine sales representatives. Of those nine, the one who handles New Jersey’s northern section of Hudson County is his top seller. The region is home to a vast Latino population primarily made up of Dominicans and Cubans. “We offer the same color spectrum that we offer everyone else,” he says. “They do, however, seem to lean toward the bright, bronzed tones.”

It does help that the sales representative, Violetta Kelly, is a Latina and speaks fluent Spanish. Because of her “Insider status,” she has successfully maintained a referral program. Kelly asks current clients for leads to other salons that may be interested in purchasing products.

Gale;;a is fully aware that some of his clients speak very limited English, so he makes it a point of publishing product literature in Spanish. “It’s important to do this because Latinos make up a vast amount of our population,” he says. “It’s important not to ignore them.”

Creative Outlook

For Creative Nail Design in Vista, Calif., it all starts with education. The company has more than 100 educators, and of those, about a dozen are bilingual. “We offer classes in several languages,” says Jan Arnold, president of the company. Eight of the company’s educators are Asian and speak fluent Vietnamese. “We’ve always had a good mix of people, and that really influences our products,” she says.

On the retail front, the company came out with a collection of 12 neutral-based tones two years ago. The display featured a Latina, an African-American, and a Russian woman, and included a color wheel which suggested a shade that would look good on a particular skin tone. “More and more women of color are buying our products,” Arnold says. Even magazines targeting Latinas and African Americans have been heavily promoting Creative’s products.

According to Arnold, colors that seem to be popular among Latinas include bright oranges and orange reds – particularly in perennially sunny Miami. “Latinas seem to love the vibrant, fun colors,” she says.

When it comes to African-American women, Arnold says the color preference varies by region. Women in the northeastern part of the U.S. seem to prefer conservative reds, purples, wines, and smoky colors. Thos in the Midwest go for neutral colors, and women in the West go for it all. “In California, it’s either very dark or very light colors,” Arnold says.

Besides promoting color, the company has also begun adding Spanish, French, and Vietnamese text to its products. Within time, all of creative’s products will feature all three languages, as well as English, on its directional and key ingredient copy.

A Vast Asian Market

Like Misa, Toma, based in Hollywood, Calif., does not market its colors to any particular ethnic group. “We have 99 colors and within that range, there’s something for everyone,” says Geoffrey Saville-Read, advertising and marketing manager for the company. “We have colors for all ethnic groups.”

However, the company’s products do seem to be strong sellers in the Asian market – particularly in Korea. In fact, Toma as a sales representative in Korea, as well as one in the United States who deals with the Asian market. Toma’s retail line, 10-Day Nail Lacquer, also sells heavily in the Korean market.

The company advertises in several ethnic magazines, and one of its products, Black Magic Mascara, was recently featured in Today’s Black Woman. “We need to target these groups,” Saville-Read says. “These markets are huge.”

According to Saville-read, the ethnic community is more daring and willing to try new things and new products – a major plus when it comes to retailing products to them.

Focusing on the Skin

Although you may not think that ethnic groups need skin care products that differ from what is currently out on the shelves, manufacturers have a strong vision when it comes to these markets. Although there are plenty of moisturizers, cleansers, and toners out there, several companies have taken a different approach by offering skin care lines that are directly targeted at specific ethnicities.

One of those lines, Edgar Morris, caters to the African-American client. The Los Angeles-based company has been around since 1981 and previously sold its skin care products as a complete system through infomercials and direct marketing. Last year, it introduced four products designed to address some of the most common skin care problems African Americans suffer from.

“African Americans seem to have a problem with acne, oily skin, and dark spots,” says Mary Mercado, corporate office sales manager for the company. “There’s nothing really out there for them.” In fact, Mercado says that prior to the various offerings that exist today, African Americans had no choice but to go to clinics and have their skin problems treated there.

The company’s products differ from mainstream products in the sense that they fully address the needs of African-American skin. “The ingredients we use are formulated for our skin,” Mercado says. One product, Blending Gel, evens out the skin tone and eliminates dark spots and discoloration – something African Americans frequently suffer from. Another product, Freedom Shave, helps eliminate ingrown hairs.

Although the line is targeted mainly at the African-American market, the products have branched out into the Latino market. In fact, it seems to be particularly strong among Latinos with darker skin tones. About four years ago, the company switched gears and began focusing on all ethnic groups. “The fact is, the U.S. has more and more people from different parts of the world,” Mercado says.

The name of another line, Belleza Latina from Neoteric, says it all. The line, which translates into “Latina Beauty,” features bilingual text on all five of its products. Before launching the line, the Denver-based company conducted a focus group of U.S. Latinas and found that they prefer thick, heavy creams, so it created a moisturizing cream with a thick appearance. The company also discovered that Latinas tend to have sensitive skin, and as a result decided to make its products all natural. Another thing the company discovered is that they tend to be very loyal to a brand once they know it.

“Latinas have a different attitude about beauty,” says Craig Snyder, brand manager for the company. “Women tend to take care of their skin and appearance at a young age.” In fact, a recent study found that Latinas spend 27% more on cosmetics and 43% more on fragrance than their general-market counterparts.

Snyder says the line is important because it addresses the lack of products available for Latinas. The fact that the packaging features bilingual text is also a plus. “Most companies see ethnic as African American,” he says. “The industry needs to recognize that there is a lack of products out there.”

The company even took into account the focus group’s color preference, and packaged its products in a black and gold color scheme. Currently, the line is being offered in areas with large Latino populations.

With ethnic groups taking more of a position in the U.S. populace, it’s important to understand them and their particular needs. However, it’s important to remember that what may work for one person may not work for another. Getting to know and understand your own clients is what is really key.


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