Retailers are starting to bring in more video inventory to meet the needs of Spanish-speaking customers. Interest in movies made in countries like Mexico and Spain, and in subtitled and dubbed versions of Hollywood hits, is now mostly regional, concentrated in Florida, California, Texas and the Southwest. But it is expected to increase as the Hispanic population grows and spreads to other parts of the country. "That is going to be a coming market," said Randy Weddington, video specialist at Harp's Food Stores, Springdale, Ark. Harp's has started putting Spanish catalog titles in some stores, and "we will probably get into subtitled new release A titles," he said. Bashas' Markets, Chandler, Ariz., just put a sizable Spanish section into a new video department in Nogales, Ariz., a border town, said Bill Glaseman, video specialist. The department, located inside a remodeled store, opened in September. About 20% of the 2,000-unit rental inventory is in Spanish versions, he said. The retailer also has Spanish videos in its Bullhead City store, he said. "We are really just feeling our way into it. They seem to be doing quite well, but not to the point where we will put them into our other stores." Subtitled U.S. movies do best, he noted. "The American movies get a lot of publicity." About 10% of the U.S. population, or 27 million people, is Hispanic, said Dan Malaguilla, general manager of the Spanish division of video distributor ETD Entertainment Merchandising, Houston.
Citing statistics from Strategy Research Corp., Irvine, Calif., he said Hispanics have $228 billion in buying power and about 85% are not
thoroughly assimilated into the U.S. culture. By 2010, Hispanics will be the largest minority in the United States, he said. "This is a market sector that is growing rapidly," said Malaguilla. "Soon we will have to view the Hispanic market as much more than just a niche market." Three types of videos appeal to this market: movies made in Spanish-speaking countries, subtitled versions of U.S. theatrical movies and dubbed versions of children's titles, including Disney hits like "The Lion King" and "Snow White." Hollywood hits are much more popular than those from other countries, he said, mostly because of their quality and the consumer awareness of them, he said. Also, subtitles are preferred over dubbing by a wide margin except on the children's products, he noted. "Regionally, it's been a very good move for the studios to expand the number of titles they release in Spanish," said Bill Bryant, assistant vice president for major accounts and special markets at video distributor Ingram Entertainment, La Vergne, Tenn.
Some supermarkets are embarking on tests of these videos. For example, Video III, Orem, Utah, which racks over 120 stores for Smitty's Super Valu, Safeway, Lucky Stores and Buttrey Food & Drug Stores, will begin a trial this month in five to six stores, said Gregg Wright, president. The racker will bring in subtitled versions of major U.S. hits. Johnson Foods, Muskogee, Okla., has Spanish versions in an Oklahoma City-area store and will soon put them in another, said Anita Reed, corporate video supervisor. There is also demand for Spanish versions of popular videos in the Northeast. Bob Kornas, buyer at Bozzuto's, Cheshire, Conn., is considering them for his company's sell-through program.
"They are doing OK, particularly in the border stores," said Dwight Mason, president of B&M Video, New Braunfels, Texas, one of three rackers servicing Albertson's video rental program. Stores in Corpus Christi, Texas, and South San Antonio also do well with the Spanish versions, he noted. Retailers in other parts of the country, like Dierbergs Markets, Chesterfield, Mo., and Southeast Foods, Monroe, La., said there is no demand for Spanish versions in their markets.