Puerto Rican Consumers on the Mainland

Puerto Rico’s economic problems are affecting people on the island, but they’ve had a completely different economic effect on the mainland: growing numbers of Puerto Rican consumers.

As Puerto Ricans leave Puerto Rico in record numbers, they make up part of the fast-growing Hispanic sector on the mainland — a group that is growing 8% faster than the population as a whole. Geoscape, a business intelligence research firm, is quoted in El Vocero as predicting that Hispanics as a whole will reach 18% of the U.S. population by 2019, with some 4 million Puerto Ricans included in that total — second only to Mexican Americans within the group. Since current data shows that there are 4,916,000 self-identified Puerto Ricans in the U.S., these numbers seem conservative.

U.S. companies are responding to this population change in a variety of ways. Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, has identified serving the Hispanic community as a priority, responding to demographic changes with initiatives like the fully bilingual Supermercado de Walmart now being tested in some Southwestern communities. CPG (consumer packaged goods) companies are adding Spanish language information to packaging. Politicians are investing in Spanish-language media and even attempting to speak Spanish themselves, whether or not they are Hispanic.

It’s not just about language. Hispanic shoppers, according to retail data, differ from the U.S. average in many ways — from buying more fresh produce to being less price-sensitive when it comes to cosmetics. Hispanic shoppers spend more per shopping trip, for example, and tend to be more brand loyal. Understanding this kind of information allows U.S. companies to provide more appealing options for this growing demographic.

However, Puerto Ricans stand out, from the point of view of marketing. More than 80% of Puerto Ricans living on the mainland are fluent in English — far more than other Hispanic groups. Puerto Ricans are generally younger and less likely to be married than other Hispanic groups. Most live in the Northeast, with a second concentration in the Southeast. The level of income and education are higher among Puerto Ricans than among other Hispanic groups, but the rate of home ownership is lower. (All data from the Pew Research Center.)

For U.S. marketers, an awareness that Hispanic shoppers are not a homogenous bloc any more than Hispanic voters are is beginning to inform the ways that U.S. companies reach out to Puerto Rican shoppers. Hyper-local marketing, which focuses on specific communities rather than entire demographic groups, is on the rise.

Recognition of the economic importance of the Puerto Rican diaspora is consistent with recognition of the political importance of this group.

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