The Holiday Season is in full swing. The decorations are up, the Christmas trees have been lit and, although Jesus is the reason for the season, it’s shopping time in America! The National Retail Federation (NRF) estimates that this year’s holiday sales will increase by 4.1 percent, reaching $586 billion dollars in spending. Latinos will account for a large chunk of that spending – after all, our purchasing power is at 1 trillion dollars. Looking at these figures got me thinking about how so many Latinos love to shop, not only during the Holidays, but also year round.
In all fairness, I can’t speak for all Latinos (although I do know Latinos from different countries who are shopaholics), but I know for certain that plenty of my fellow Puerto Ricans are obsessed with shopping. Shopping is almost like a competitive sport and the winner is whoever buys the trendiest clothes, flashiest car, shiniest bling, and latest gadgets. It’s not only about looking good and having things; it’s about looking better and having more things than everyone else. This snobbish attitude affects everyone, regardless of social class. In fact, sometimes lower income individuals are so intent on keeping up appearances, they’d rather get behind on rent, utilities and other expenses directly tied to their livelihood in order to stay in the competition.
Flashy Latinos definitely know how to prioritize their investments; for example, they prefer to have a luxury car than a nice house because more people get to take a look at what they’re driving than where they live. They also shop for brand names, even if it means purchasing knockoffs, just to enhance the illusion of high social status. Thankfully, and probably because my dad is half Jewish (that’s right, a stereotype at someone else’s expense for a change!), my parents taught my siblings and me to be frugal and live within our means. When I first moved to the United States, I noticed that Americans aren’t as concerned as Latinos about these things, especially when it comes to clothing and cars. They actually spend most of their income on housing expenses.
Interestingly, and most likely driven by these cultural differences and the struggling economy, it looks like the shopping behavior of U.S. Latinos is starting to deviate from the retail consumption patterns that are prevalent in their countries of origin. Latinas in particular are apparently becoming the new queens of smart shopping. When compared to Caucasian and African American women, Latinas are doing more research before buying and searching for discounts. So even though they will most likely continue to shop a lot, Latinos in the U.S. may be learning how to spend their money more wisely. Maybe eventually the competition will be about who nabs the best bargains; that will become the new status symbol. If that’s the case, I might be up for a little friendly competition.