Most people in the U.S. are keenly aware of the shift in the country’s population mix over the last few decades, especially regarding the Hispanic population. This change prompts me to suggest that optical manufacturers and retailers have a multicultural strategy. Here’s why.
A recent article published by the Pew Research Center mentioned that there has been a huge increase in the Hispanic population over the past decade. Comprising 17% of the country’s total population at 54 million, Hispanics represent the largest minority group in the U.S. In fact, according to 2012 census data, there are 17 states where Hispanic children make up at least 20% of the kindergarten population in public schools. This is in contrast to 10 years ago when only seven states had that percentage of Hispanics in kindergarten. While the number of Hispanics coming to the U.S. has dropped drastically this year, the recent influx of children from Mexico, and Central and South America seems to mitigate that drop.
If you’re an optical retailer in a state with a high minority population, none of this is a surprise. You’ve already encountered an increasingly diverse population and have no doubt developed strategies for serving the eyecare and eyewear needs of these new residents. For those who haven’t, you’ll probably need to do so soon. Minorities today make up 37% of the total U.S. population, and that percentage is projected to increase to 57% by 2060, with Hispanics making up 31% of the U.S. population-nearly one in three residents.
Some companies have taken the lead on this trend by introducing products that appeal to Hispanics and other minorities. For example, some frame companies have branded products using Hispanic celebrities while others have introduced frames that better fit selected populations. One lens company has had a multicultural advisory committee for several years that researches multicultural issues and provides recommendations for educational materials, marketing, and professional advice.
The shifting diversity in the U.S. is something every optical manufacturer and retailer will encounter and need to plan for; some already have in a big way. Just as manufacturers and retailers found ways to embrace the gay and lesbian communities a decade or so ago, those who have not done so yet will find themselves behind the curve as the population mix continues to shift. The Affordable Care Act will no doubt accelerate this need for optical professionals since it will bring thousands of new children into the eyecare delivery system in the years ahead.
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