Jersey Bound Latino - Summer 2016

Jersey Malls Captivate Latin Shoppers

Julie Schwietert Collazo 2016-05-04 00:02:52

Half a decade’s worth of economic growth in Latin America has created more middle- and upper-class citizens with discretionary income to spend. That’s good news for New Jersey retailers because when these cash-flush travelers visit the region, they are spending freely on everything from athletic wear to Apple products. In 2013, Mexican and Brazilian visitors to the U.S. were the biggest spenders among Latin American tourists, with Mexicans spending $732 per visitor and Brazilians spending, on average a whopping $5,097 individually during their travels here. Disposable income doesn’t mean that one is inclined to forego a great deal, however, and New Jersey offers plenty of those. For one thing, the state’s 7 percent sales tax is quite attractive compared with the 16 percent value-added tax in Mexico and the 19 percent VAT in Brazil, where many imported goods carry an even higher tax burden. Another plus is that some of the state’s biggest shopping centers are easily accessible from Newark Liberty International Airport, and their management teams actively are reaching out to deep-pocketed visitors through tourism campaigns. It’s little wonder that Latin America’s jet-set builds some serious shopping into their U.S. travel itineraries. “Even work trips are an occasion for big shopping,” said Jennifer Taylor, vice-president of the U.S.-based JetSet Vacations. Many of her Latin American colleagues plan their travel calendars and trade show attendance around big sales and proximity to shopping centers. “Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic, for example, have import taxes that cause the price of imported goods to be almost double in country versus out,” she said, “so depending on what you’re shopping for your plane ticket can pay for itself.” As a primary destination for Latin American travelers, tri-state area retailers work hard to reach out to this market demographic. Manhattan’s world-famous photo equipment and electronics emporium B&H has a dedicated phone line for Portuguese-speaking clients and four different phone numbers for Spanish-speaking customers, one each for Mexico, Argentina, Venezuela, and Uruguay. Owners and managers of New Jersey businesses also are keeping up with trends. With more than 33 percent of its incoming passengers originating outside the U.S., the majority of them from Latin America, Newark Liberty International Airport is a focal point for mega-retailers such as Elizabeth’s The Mills at Jersey Gardens, which at more than two million square feet, is New Jersey’s largest shopping mall. Mall managers are attracting a growing and loyal international clientele by doing some of their travel planning for them. In addition to transportation incentives, such as shuttles that run directly from the airport, The Mills at Jersey Gardens has travel offerings in conjunction with hotels that are minutes from both airport and mall. The “Shop & Stay” packages are a collaboration between the mall and Marriott, which has three hotels close to The Mills at Jersey Gardens. Travelers who take advantage of “Shop & Stay” receive a coupon booklet for the mall, as well as a $25 gift card that can be used at most stores. Transportation to and from the airport also is included. New Jersey retailers like The Mills at Jersey Gardens also are interested in capitalizing on the growing tourism segment known as ‘group travel.’ The Mills, as well as the Marriott properties with which it partners, extend additional discounts and services for travel groups of 10 or more. The mall offers a group tour option, which can be booked online and Marriott gives bonus Marriott Rewards Points when travelers reserve 10 or more rooms. The Mall at Short Hills offers similar services to international travelers. Although economic growth in Latin America may be slowing, experts don’t expect travel or shopping to slow considerably. Even in Latin America, which has many of the same stores that anchor malls in the United States, Taylor said most Latin Americans of means still want to shop in the U.S. The import tax is just too burdensome, she noted, asking “Why spend $25 for a shirt in Mexico when you can buy it for $10 here?” Jersey retailers are banking on Taylor’s predictions being on target, and will continue to offer— and even expand—existing outreach to international travelers from Latin America. Would you like to read this article in Spanish? Visit www.jerseyboundlatino.com/articles.

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