ASM Director of Retail Operations, Kerry Severson, and the Hispanic Retail Team were recently featured in an Orange County Business Journal article that highlighted the specialized selling techniques and localized approach needed to break into regional Hispanic retail accounts.
Irvine-Based Marketer Plans to Sell Latino Accent in Miami
by Mediha DiMartino
March 23, 2015
Think of Advantage Sales & Marketing LLC's Hispanic Retail Selling Team as ambassadors for general-market manufacturers looking to secure shelf space at Latino grocery stores in Southern California, Arizona, Texas and New York—with a push into Miami coming soon.
The 20-person team focuses on retail chains such as Anaheim-based Northgate González Markets, stopping by stores every two weeks or so to stock merchandise, set up promotions, and pitch new products that run the gamut from canned goods to beauty brands.
Product pitches are where the team stands out.
You don't just waltz into a grocery store—whether it's part of a chain or a mom-and-pop—and expect to get shelf space for a product.
The Advantage Sales & Marketing representatives earn the attention of Latino-American grocers from the ground up, getting to know retailers and proving their knowledge of the store's draw area and customer base, according to Kerry Severson, director of retail operations for the Irvine-based company.
"Every one of our sales reps lives in the community, and for most of them English is their second language, so they identify well with the end consumer," Severson said. "It really helps with the relationships that we've built—the stores trust our sales reps. In the past, if you came in and asked the grocery manager, 'Hey, try this new product from this distributor or this manufacturer,' they may have said, 'Nah, we don't want to do that.' So part of what we are doing is really breaking through the cultural barrier that you may have with (the) traditional sales person who doesn't speak the language or understand the culture."
Cultural understanding covers a range of insights, according to Severson.
His team knows, for example, that the meat counter at Safeway might not be the best place to set up product displays, but "the carniceria" at a Latino store is prime territory.
That's because customers at Latino stores often take numbers for service from butchers who cut meats to order. The wait time brings the chance that their eyes might fall on a product display, giving some manufacturer the opportunity to win a new customer.
Members of the Hispanic Retail team function as an extension of a retailer's team once they get their foot in the door.
Sales reps, aside from stocking shelves and helping lost customers, also notify store managers about upcoming sales promotions, Severson said.
"That actually helps the retailer, as well as the manufacturer, to help drive more sales through the stores," he said.
They stop by every two weeks, because "if you're not there for two or three months, all of a sudden somebody else takes over your position on the rack, or your rack is somewhere in the back," he said.
New York City
Advantage Sales & Marketing started its Hispanic Retail Selling Team in New York City in 2007. It expanded operations to Southern California, Arizona and Texas last year. The Miami branch is forming right now and is set to be up and running sometime this spring.
The Latino line is still a "small piece of Advantage," Severson said, adding that its parent company operates in 16,000 chain food stores, while the Hispanic Retail Selling Team is in about 1,200 stores.
Moody's Investors Service estimated Advantage's fiscal 2014 revenue at $1.85 billion in June, when private equity firms Leonard Green & Partners LP and CVC Capital Partners acquired a majority stake in the company from London-based Apax Partners LLC for $4.2 billion.
That's up 8.8% from the company's self-reported revenue of $1.7 billion for 2013.
The potential for growth in the Hispanic Retail team's target market segment looks to be solid for the long term. Latinos currently number about 56 million in the U.S., nearly 18% of the population. The U.S. Census Bureau anticipates their numbers will rise steady before reaching about 119 million in 2060, when they'll account for nearly 30% of the total.
"We understand that with changing demographics, it's going to become a bigger and bigger piece of the business," he said. "It will never be as dominant [as the general market] but as the Hispanic population grows and … Hispanic store growth increases, we'll grow along with it, [and help] manufacturers who are interested in cracking the code with (the) Hispanic consumer."
Some of the manufacturers represented by the Advantage Sales & Marketing team "resonate very well with the Hispanic consumer already, and "they're just looking for us for the retail execution," Severson said.
The team often gets client referrals from Eventus, a multicultural marketing agency ASM acquired a little over a year ago.
Eventus "represents many Fortune 500 companies, helping them on their Hispanic marketing and messaging," Severson said.
The two will often pitch clients together, leaning on each other's strengths to keep the whole job in-house.
"It's really this 360 degrees of feedback," he said. "Eventus helps clients with how you build your brand, what you do in store, what's your messaging—and then we help with how you get [the product] on shelves. We work back with Eventus—the full circle—on what's really working well, do we need any point-of-sale merchandise, building graphics for display racks and things like that."