News & Trends

Building a bridge to Asian American communities

Posted by: David Jamieson David Jamieson
on May 19, 2014

In a report on Asian American consumers released late last year, Nielsen projected that the buying power of this sophisticated, savvy portion of the population will reach a staggering $1 trillion by 2017. Stoking an upward trend, the Asian American community currently numbers nearly 19 million and is the nation’s fastest growing multicultural segment.

Nielsen further noted the affluence of Asian Americans, stating that their incomes are currently the highest of all multicultural groups in the country — and that the grocery store format is their single most-shopped channel.

The supply of grocers and shops targeted to the Asian American community has, however, been greatly outpaced by demand. At several locations across the West Coast, Kimco has created opportunities to fill the void where ethnic populations are concentrated. San Francisco’s Bay Area, for example, boasts one of the highest Asian populations outside of Asia. Our recent redevelopment project at Cupertino Village, directly across from the new Apple 2 campus, serves the area with an Asian-oriented shopping center and represents an investment in the community. Our flagship Westlake Shopping Center in Daly City is likewise rich in Asian tenants, entrepreneurs, and customers. Tenants at Westlake include Little Fire Pot, Dae Jang Guem Tofu House, Sheng Kee Bakery, and the National Asian American Coalition, among others.

It would be a mistake, though, to generalize the shopping needs of any Asian American people. To serve a community well, grocers and shops need to mirror the cultural and ethnic diversity of the population and be aware of the nuances that distinguish one country of origin from the next. We have one Taiwanese retail store at Cupertino Village called Ten Ren Tea that is focused exclusively on different varietals of tea. Our tenants also include the Taiwanese company 99 Ranch Market and the Korean-run HK and Galleria Markets. Beyond our tenant mix, Island Pacific Supermarket is a Filipino brand, while Mitsuwa Marketplace and Nijiya Market are Japanese.

The Asian American supermarket provides a “sense of place,” KCET reported last September, which is critical to maintaining the frequency of 3–4 visits per week common among this consumer group. That is, the market becomes a staple of the community — a touchpoint where immigrant families connect with one another and celebrate their culture. Smaller bakers, markets, and specialty stores benefit from the same phenomenon.

We have found that such businesses are also ideal for introducing non-Asians to ethnic offerings and culture. The 85˚C Bakery Cafe, for instance, is Taiwanese, but its fresh-baked goods and caffeinated drinks (not to mention its contemporary design) appeal to a broad range of consumers. Adding non-Asian co-tenants to a shopping center with an Asian anchor further encourages inter-ethnic curiosity, with the added benefit of drawing people of diverse backgrounds together. In our experience, committing to a strong Asian presence, especially in an area already saturated with traditional grocers, equates with a commitment to help transform the customer base.

Building a bridge to tenants and the local community is vital when repositioning any market or shopping center. Overcoming language and ethnic barriers is especially key in relationships with the Asian American community, where respect for culture and family runs very, very deep. Kimco has been successful in part by working with brokers of Asian descent who speak Mandarin and become the ambassadors of our business.

Shifting the dynamics of a shopping center to an ethnic sensibility is no simple task, but when successfully executed has a dramatic effect on value. We have found that respect for Asian culture is rewarded with trust. And from trust flows the uniquely strong loyalty of Asian American tenants and consumers.

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