Urban Consumerism Evolves

Urban Shoppers have a web destination to discuss all things related to consumerism and it's about time. Consumerism affects wealth, health, well-being and social standing. It represents the total experience and reward of the buying process and is a powerful social-economic force with near and long term personal and group effects.

The importance of consumerism as a distinct subject for editorial is new especially targeted directly to the African American and Latino shoppers. These are huge consumer markets in the U.S., combined totaling over $2.3 trillion dollars in spending power according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth.

Urban Shoppers

As shoppers, it has long been documented that Blacks and Latinos have distinct shopping behaviors in what and where they purchase across the spectrum of goods and services for sale in the U.S. marketplace. The fact hasn't been lost on marketers.

Many marketers have important core consumer franchises among these groups for brands in many categories. The projected growth of these populations bodes well for the future of consumer marketing, but perhaps not for these multicultural groups as consumers.

As social groups, they have historically experienced the worst of consumerism. There is a legacy of dysfunction that often resulted in lack of access to high-quality goods and services in local communities as well as being subject to the worst reverberations of financial and economic market forces at work. Issues of consumerism have always been vitally important. In our cyber-frauded, food contaminated, global-warmed world, consumerism savvy has never been more important.

Fortunately, the urban shopping environment itself is more viable and robust than it has been in decades due a confluence of two important market forces that have improved and expanded the shopping environment.

Retail Landscape Improves

In 1995, HUD documented the state of over 40 inner cities' disparities in residents' income and available retail due to a lack of primarily Big Box supermarkets. Social theorists bemoaned the money pouring out of urban areas and the dominance of Mom & Pop stores and bodegas with their higher prices and lack of selection. However, the lack of building in urban areas meant overbuilding in suburban areas and market forces once again intervened.

Supermarkets had cited the cost of insurance as deterrents to building in inner cities began to eye underserved urban communities as growth areas and a revitalization began. Harlem NY with over 500,000 residents got its first new supermarket in over 30 years. Improved large retail fosters improvements for small retail and more money stays in the community, funding jobs and general prosperity. This has long been an issue in inner city residents' low wealth generation.

Media Habits Change

Fast forward to 2009 and African Americans and Hispanics adopt the internet as a significant medium for information and entertainment. A Radio One Yankelovich Study in 2008 revealed that the Internet was second only to television in terms of usage by African-Americans, surpassing local urban radio. Social theorists spoke to the "color blindness" of the internet but more causal likely just as the population in general, Blacks and Latinos are moving online.

The so-called "Digital Divide", the gap in adoption of broadband by multicultural groups as indicative of their usage of the internet, was recently diluted by 2009 Pew American Life research. Blacks and Latinos much greater usage of wireless and mobile technologies for internet as opposed to broadband causes into question the use of broadband as the barometer used to measure internet use generally.

Challenges of Consumerism

With the financial crisis and minorities disproportionately affected by the housing crisis and job losses, issues facing today's urban consumer have never been more important and the challenges never greater. From product and food safety, environmental issues, health issues. new technologies, the need for relevant consumerist information has never been as important as now for multicultural groups..

The goal as always is pursuit of the American Dream. In 2009, that pursuit got a shot in the arm through an online magazine with editorial devoted to Urban Consumerism and a first of its kind, website destination where urban shoppers can share consumerism experiences and compare notes.


Marla Currie is President of Targeted Media Online, publishers of The Urban Shopper@2009 All Rights Reserved.