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Birth Rates Point to Very Different Future for America

May 17, 2012

For the first time since the founding of the nation, the majority of babies being born in the U.S. are not of European descent. According to the Census Bureau, 50.4 percent of babies born between July 2010 and 2011 were of ancestries classified as minorities.

William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, told The Wall Street Journal that African-Americans make up the largest minority group among people over the age of 50, but that Hispanics are second to Caucasians as the second largest demographic group for those younger than 50. The median age for Hispanics in the U.S. is under 28 years of age.

"It's a major turning point for American society," Mr. Frey said of the latest Census figures. "We're moving from a largely white and black population to one which is much more diverse and is a big contrast from what most baby boomers grew up with."

Roderick Harrison, a sociologist at Howard University and a former chief of racial statistics at the Census Bureau, echoed Mr. Frey's remarks.

"This is an important landmark," he told The Associated Press. "This generation is growing up much more accustomed to diversity than its elders."

According to the Census findings, three metropolitan areas in the U.S. — Columbus, Ga.; Dallas-Fort Worth; and Vineland-Millville, N.J. — are the most recent markets where minorities make up the majority of residents. Eleven percent of counties in the U.S. now have minorities accounting for at least half the population.

Discussion Questions:

Discussion Question: How will the changing face of America shape the business of retailing in the years to come?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

Are retailers in the U.S. adapting quickly enough to keep up with the changes in the nation's demographics?


I do not think it will change all that much. If the "American Dream" is to continue its history of accepting new Americans from anywhere in the world so that they can make a better life for their children and then their grandchildren, then the tradition lives on in America.

Retail will also adapt to the change in our cultural likes and dislikes, but not change the retail operation of a store. Products we buy may change, but haven't they always changed with new styles and types of food we eat? I find the report to be very positive in that we are a blended nation and that our retail industry will continue to evolve but yet remain the same with the same challengers it has today. Only in America!

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Frank Riso, Principal, Frank Riso Associates, LLC

Any retailer with an open mind (and an open pair of eyes) understands that our multi-ethnic society has grown far past the bounds of what used to be considered "Hispanic" markets and so on. And population growth is to be welcomed as a sales driver wherever it comes from. I have a couple of additional observations:

1. Despite the regular political noise about "English as the official language of America," smart retailers need to adapt signage and other communication to their Spanish or Asian-language speaking consumers to the degree that makes sense for their marketplace.

2. Stores like Macy's are doing a smart job of micro-targeting their assortments by location. Different ethnic groups have different size requirements and (at times) lifestyle needs that ought to be reflected in local assortments.

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Dick Seesel, Principal, Retailing In Focus LLC

The business of retailing will change in much the same way as have professional sports and restaurants. For mass merchants, both brick and mortar and e-retailers, the assortments could get larger and wider with multi-faceted presentations.

Question: Will each consumer group wish to stay self- contained or will they seek out one new American standard to embrace? At the moment that's a mystery and until an answer appears, the struggle will demand even more of the retailing process. That suggests the possibility of more proliferation of boutique and retail specialization.

Gene Hoffman, President/CEO, Corporate Strategies International

Sorry to quibble, but I think this article points to part of the problem we face when we look at this issue.

By definition, when the number of members of, "Demographic Cohort A," exceeds the number of members of, "Demographic Cohort B," then, "Cohort A," is a majority whether or not they have been, or have been treated as, a minority in the past.

For decades now, many of us have opted for the phrase, "emergent majorities," popularized by Dr. David Hayes-Bautista of the University of California, Los Angeles and others to describe the phenomenon of the numerical ascendency of former perceived, "minority," groups. When you continue to think of these groups as, "minorities," you -- especially in the case of businesses -- tend to allocate resources accordingly.

And there is the problem.

The face of America isn't changing. It's changed! The problem is, lots of businesses are still controlled by white, monolingual, baby boomer males who like to pretend most folks are just like them. Successful retailing is always a cultural artifact, so if you think the only Hispanics in the world are the gardeners working at Ozzie and Harriet's house, you're going to face some significant challenges in the near future, if you are not, in fact, facing them now.

This is a problem centuries in the making.

All those "English Only" folks, for example, need to be reminded that the original Constitution of the State of California required all official documents to be written in both English and Spanish. If we understood our history better, perhaps we would not continually suffer the sins of the past. We've lost a lot of ground in the multicultural wars since California became a state. For example, it may surprise many RW readers to learn that "El Cinco de Mayo" is an American Civil War celebration, (the Battle at Puebla, won on May 5,1862 was originally seen as the first major victory over geopolitical forces aligned with the Confederate States of America,) not, in fact, the anniversary of Mexican independence or a beer industry promotion.

Before we learn what we need to learn about the complex nature of our future society, perhaps we ought to go back and discover the things we don't know, and that have been suppressed, about our history.

Once we, as a nation, look in the mirror and see who we really are -- and who we really have been -- then we can begin to figure out what retail success might look like. Until then, we'll still market to "majorities" as if they were "minorities" and vice versa.

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Ryan Mathews, Founder, ceo, Black Monk Consulting

This development has been coming for quite some time, and Europe is already further along than the US in terms of "social suicide." The blatant lies promulgated by "population bomb" alarmism parallel other frauds perpetrated by a political contingent that is basically anti-human - in other words, if it involves people, it is bad.

Those who do not reproduce at, at least, replacement level, really have nothing at stake in the future but their own feverish imaginations. The rest of us have our children and grandchildren as emissaries into the future. Quite frankly, the protestations of concern "for the children" by a non-reproducing political class will be swamped by immigrants and natives who haven't "drunk the koolaid."

So we prepare our children to survive and thrive in a world more populated by the achievers, from whatever part of the world they hail. Our future is bright, while that of the "non-human" planners will be a farcical footnote to history.

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Herb Sorensen, Ph.D., Scientific Advisor Kantar Retail; Adjunct Ehrenberg-Bass, Shopper Scientist LLC

I can't believe Ryan Mathews wrote a longer comment than me! Seriously, this entire thread (so far?) is basically right on!

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Herb Sorensen, Ph.D., Scientific Advisor Kantar Retail; Adjunct Ehrenberg-Bass, Shopper Scientist LLC

This milestone has been long predicted, but it does serve to put retailers on notice that diversity is no longer a side show but really a core issue with implications for marketing, merchandising, outreach, staffing, etc. Happily, retailer use of social media is maturing and expanding fast, and, with one of the minority groups, Hispanics, having a youthful demographic (median age 28), social media will now really come into the mainstream.

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Roy White, Editor-at-large, RetailWire

I voted "no" because US retailers are not taking a cue to how retailing is done in other countries that are going through the same multicultural dynamics right now, such as Dubai and Kuala Lumpur.

Products and promotions should advertised in multilingual formats. In addition, self-checkout kiosks, digital signage and other retail touchpoints should accommodate multiple demographics, cultures and languages.

Technology is going to come into play such as allowing the mobile device to be a translator to conduct a transaction, but also new opportunities and skill sets will need to be established to have a retail environment that can accommodate multiple cultures and languages.

Ed Dunn, Founder, (Stealth Operation)

The minority/majority quip makes for a nice headline. It's a milestone of sorts, and the facts suggest we need to update our thought vocabulary.

It may remain a fact that the ruling minority in our country remains English-speaking, Caucasian and male. However, the great majority of Americans are "all other." We are a nation of minorities. Get used to it. It won't be long before this fact is more fairly reflected among the leadership of our businesses, governments and institutions.

If we retailers aspire to be truly shopper-centric, our practices must reflect the reality on the ground (not in our tiny little minds). That means establishing routine practices aimed at actively observing who our customers are in each and every store and taking steps to accommodate their evolving preferences and needs.

Acculturation is a two-way street, and we've been acculturating in surges since the dawn of our nation. Salsa famously overtook ketchup as the nation's number one condiment in the mid-1990s. But many Hispanics buy mayonnaise and white bread too.

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James Tenser, Principal, VSN Strategies

America has always been a melting pot. Retailers will want to pay attention to the shifting demographics, but it will become equally important to see the complete consumer -- know the Lifestage, Lifestyle, understand their Attitudes as well as Behaviors.

The tools are there to keep the consumer in mind, and retailers who take the time to equip their operations, merchandising, and allocation teams with a clear view will be the winner. It will always be important to know how many SKUs moved of a particular item, and in which location.

It is imperative to understand the "new" consumer. She will be a rich addition to the melting pot stew, if merchants take the time to understand her.

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Roger Saunders, Global Managing Director, Prosper Business Development

This AM I open up my PC and find not RetailWire 2012, but rather the Daily Klansman 1912... OK, it's not quite than bad, but really, without elaboration the whole story line inevitably leads to the coarsest kind of stereotyping.

What interests me, and I would hope/expect most retailers as well, is what will Americans think, and do, and want in the future ... things which -- the last time I checked -- weren't determined by skin color or which racial box you checked-off on the census form.


Retail has had to adapt to all consumer demographics over time, be they minority or otherwise. There are cross-racial product categories in retailers that never existed 20 years ago. This is just one more reason to stay close to your customers!

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Ralph Jacobson, Global Retail Industry Analytics Marketing Executive, IBM

It is seemingly evident that the future United States will have a much clearer understanding of the world's many different cultures and lifestyles. This is perhaps the missing ingredient for our being better accepted and maybe even appreciated in many more parts of the world. I have always appreciated nature and the worlds non human inhabitants, but I find people from everywhere the most fun and fulfilling to spend time with. So I look for the successes a wider perspective brings, and the many new trading partners we can have that just might be eager to meet us.


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