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Recent Nielsen data shows that if the Hispanic market were a standalone economy, it will stand as one of the world’s top 20 economies. What do the nation’s largest retailers do with these numbers to better serve their audiences?

The question was at the heart of a Retailers panel at Portada’s 6th Annual Hispanic Advertising and Media Conference in New York on Sept. 20. The panel, moderated by EPMG’s CEO Trevor Hansen, featured national retailers CVS and Macy’s, which shared some insights into how they go about reaching their demographic.

“We’re in a test and learn phase,” acknowledged Dawn Marie Gray, marketing manager, multicultural at CVS. “Perhaps even a bit late to the party.”

One of CVS’ main challenges is that it has grown rapidly by acquisitions and not organically, leaving CVS marketing execs scrambling to figure out how to deal with newly acquired markets. “For a while, we were still shipping shovels to Florida,” said Gray, in explaining some of the slips that came with the learning process. At the same time, she says CVS is looking carefully at the demographic of its stores and tries to provide clients with what they are looking for.

Gray reminded the audience about Nuance, Salma Hayek’s line of beauty products launched exclusively at CVS and promoted heavily through a multiplatform Spanish-language campaign that includes Out of Home, radio, in-store advertising and events. “If you communicate in-language, and showing things they love, we’re going to be fine,” said Gray. “However, I may add that budgets [or lack of] are still a challenge.”

The retailers’ panel also included Ronald Mendez, Group Account Director at MPG, and Maria Cristina Rios, director of multicultural marketing and media strategy of Macy’s, which this week launched a full-fledged campaign to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month in partnership with ‘Vanidades’ magazine. This year’s celebration, says Rios, honors Latino Americans, with a special salute to musician Carlos Santana.

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Laura has lived and worked as a journalist in Mexico, Chile, Argentina and the U.S. She was the founder and editor in chief of Marketing y Medios magazine, an English- language trade publication devoted to explaining the Hispanic market to a non-Spanish speaking audience of executives and marketers. Prior to that, she was responsible for creating and launching the Spanish-language edition of the Wall Street Journal. She was also the creator and founding editor of Entrepreneur magazine´s Spanish-language Web site She is fluent in Spanish, English and French and works as a freelance writer and editor in New York City.

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