Many U.S. Hispanics are venturing out only to buy essential goods and are cutting back on discretionary spending, worried about possible harassment by immigration or law enforcement officials since the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, according to community groups, research firms and retailers.
This change in consumer behavior by the country's second-fastest-growing ethnic group has recently been cited as a cause for worry by already-struggling consumer companies, from big-box retailers to auto parts makers.
O'Reilly Automotive Chief Executive Gregory Henslee told analysts earlier this month that many of the company's stores with weak second-quarter sales were in Hispanic-dominant areas of the United States. "It's not just something that we've seen. It's something that most retailers have seen," Henslee said.
In late July, Target Chief Executive Brian Cornell at a conference referenced a report by retail consultants NPD Group that cited a decline in discretionary spending by Hispanics.
"They are staying home. They are going out less often, particularly around border towns in the United States," Cornell said at a conference in Aspen, Colo.
Trump's surprise election win last November came partly on campaign promises to deport undocumented foreigners en masse and build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. These pledges — along with Trump's claim that Mexico was sending rapists and drug dealers into the United States — sparked outrage within the American Hispanic community.
"For our own president to call us criminals, thieves and rapists — it's terrible ... we live in fear of doing those simple things like going for groceries," said a 19-year-old Chicago college student, Juan F., who did not want his full name used out of concern for family members who are undocumented.
Juan, a U.S. citizen, said he has been shopping for his household since Trump's presidency began because family members are afraid to leave the house.
"People are squirreling money away and don't want to leave their houses to go to stores," said Eric Rodriguez of Latino advocacy group UnidosUS, which has been critical of Trump's proposals on immigration.
"They're afraid local law enforcement or immigration officials are going to harass or embarrass them," he said in an interview.
Not all consumer categories, however, are experiencing a significant decline in Hispanic spending. The purchase of essentials such as food and basic household goods is still on the rise, but at a much slower rate than in recent years, according to research firm Nielsen.
None of the reports specified any changes to first-half online spending by Hispanics, which make up about 18 percent of the U.S. population, according to research firm Nielsen Holdings.