They are being forced to deleverage because of a massive destruction of credit, which was a direct result of an unprecedented debt-driven spending spree that occurred from 2001 to 2007. Steidtmann went on to forecast that unlike in previous recessions, consumers will not be able to return to their previous spending patterns after the economy begins to grow again, because they will no longer have access to the credit that fueled their hedonistic spending earlier this decade.
There is no doubt that Steidtmann has uncovered a fundamental macroeconomic truth that all marketers must come to understand. However, as a Hispanic marketer, my thoughts turn to Hispanic consumers and how they will fare vis-à-vis the broader deleveraging of the consumer market. This is an interesting question considering that Hispanics have traditionally had less access to financial products like credit cards and mortgages, which are the primary culprits behind this macroeconomic shift.
Let's take a look at some of the data.
According to recent data from Experian Consumer Research, 58% of Hispanics have not used a credit card in the past 30 days, 42% of Hispanics don't like the idea of being in debt and 31% typically pay cash for their purchases. While a bit older, data from a 2004 Survey of Consumer Finances states that 80% of surveyed "general market" respondents said they use credit cards, compared to only 56% of Hispanic households.
Looking at Hispanics and the mortgage crisis paints a similar picture. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Expenditure Survey (2006), more than 50% of Hispanics rent versus own their homes, compared to 30% of non-Hispanics (and this was at the height of the real estate boom). Moreover, according to a 2008 Synovate report, only 26% of Hispanics held a mortgage, compared to more than 50% of general market consumers.
Certainly a large number of Hispanics have been bitten hard by the foreclosure bug, in part because of their heavy subprime loan participation and the fact that they live in areas where the housing bubble was most pronounced. However, no matter how you look at the data, Hispanic homeowners are a minority -- only 26% hold mortgages (Synovate, 2008) and Hispanic homeownership only reached 6.1 million during the 2007 peak (U.S. Census), representing a small percentage of the 42 million-plus population.
So what does all this mean for Hispanic marketers and advertisers? Clearly, Hispanics, like everyone else in the U.S., are adjusting to the recession by cutting their spending. A report from the Pew Hispanic Center earlier this month confirms that Hispanics are reducing remittances, cutting back on eating out, curtailing holiday spending and putting off car purchases.
However, as the economy inevitably turns the corner, Hispanics represent a stronger consumer segment than their general market counterparts, in no small measure because of their lack of debt. In a new consumer world order of overleveraged consumers, the Hispanic market represents a beacon of opportunity as a truly deleveraged consumer.