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Hispanic Retail Sales Stumble as Immigrants Stay Home and Hoard

by Ben Popken /
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers detain a suspect as they conduct a targeted enforcement operation in Los Angeles on Feb. 7.Charles Reed / U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement via REUTERS

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Retail sales to Hispanics are tumbling, as immigrants fearful after the election of President Donald Trump stay home and hoard their cash.

"There's almost a cocooning factor," Brian Cornell, chief executive of Target, said at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech event Tuesday in Aspen, Colo. "They are staying at home. They are going out less often. Particularly around border towns in the United States, you're seeing a change in behavior."

 A man is detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. John Moore / Getty Images file

Cornell cited data by the research firm NPD Group, which found that purchases at certain retailers had fallen 8 percent in 2017. The drop was most acute in apparel and accessories, with a dramatic "high teens" drop in sneaker sales. Basketball, skates and running shoes took the biggest hits, although work and occupational footwear grew.

In the previous year, Hispanics had accounted for 23 percent of all sneaker sales and nearly all of the sales growth. No other group saw similar drops.

The Hispanic demographic is not to be overlooked — the group's buying power was $1.3 trillion in 2015, and it is projected to rise to more than $1.7 trillion by 2020, according to Nielsen. And compared to other groups, Hispanics spend the most on a daily basis.

But Trump's immigration crackdown is taking a toll on the cash register. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrests are up 40 percent since Trump signed executive orders to tighten border security and punish sanctuary cities.

For millions of concerned Hispanic immigrants, they're "not going out and shopping," Robert Kaplan, president of the Dallas Fed, said in May. "They are staying home. They are afraid if they go out they may not come home."

Related: Latinos Under 'Serious Attack' Since Trump Took Office

Even if they're not afraid that they will be deported, they may know someone who could be. About half of the U.S. Hispanic population has documentation but is related to someone who is undocumented.

"I don't think they're expecting to go to Target or Foot Locker store and be deported," said Linda Lane Gonzalez, chairwoman of the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies, who also runs her own marketing company.

"They may be holding back on spending to put something aside in case someone they know, a friend or family member, is in need," Gonzalez told NBC News, further citing a decline in Hispanic spending on financial services.

 An employee at the Puerto Rican shoe store Novus in Pembroke Pines, Fla. Carmen Sesin

Kaplan said that if Hispanics are too afraid to shop, it would overall consumer spending — which accounts for 70 percent of the economy.

It could also put a damper on America's gross domestic product — which Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have frequently vowed they will nearly double to 3 percent through a variety of protectionist economic proposals.

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