El Paso Times from El Paso, Texas on April 5, 1981 · 91
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El Paso Times from El Paso, Texas · 91

El Paso, Texas
Issue Date:
Sunday, April 5, 1981
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mmts Sunday, April 5, lttl Paiel-H i- M A T , t. J v 5-i CEHTROJSPIRITI Pi rim ............. - .. "'i lift Illili , . m J J. LA POP I Qlavand 4 Kmp J It Reaching into Mexico to build retail business New affluence south of border lures advertising (Times staff photo) DOWNTOWN MERCHANTS DEPEND ON BORDER TRADE . . . Three-fourths of sales are to Mexican nationals By MICHAEL FONES Times staff writer Astute American businessmen are realizing something El Paso retailers have known for a long time there's money in Mexico and a lot of it's being spent in U.S. border cities. For decades national advertising agencies in the United States have viewed the 2 million Mexican nationals who cross the border each week to shop in the United States as "bonus" consumers a sort of added attraction lured by media targeted for Hispanics in U.S. border cities. As Mexico moves toward economic stability and begins to develop its natural resources, American marketers are turning their attention south of the border. If the El Paso-Juarez area is any indication of market potential, that attention is well deserved. Thomas F. Lee and Associates, a business consulting firm in El Paso, has conducted hundreds of door-to-door interviews in Juarez to discover the shopping habits of Mexican nationals. Tom Lee, head of the firm, esti- "It's deemed by Hispanics to be quite insulting to dub or lip-sync a commercial Successful advertisers do commercials with Hispanics for Hispanics." Advertising expert Bob Hitchens La Marca Polo de Ralph Lauren Solamente en la UfflQiVFftfflOn ! ! i 1 i rozmzz. ., La dmn$ Ptlo EjitMKctffl'MQiMtavMunartvotuGiOfl En i It-'mt in Qui milt tt ftomt. In toima tfl tut t lint! ll POtO Ccniamot Cgn t,n Mcign M 11 calOftl It lip $ 5 wri . -m La Coioata Wo Aavlu!'ucQrMa,ufthiteiitwQM Ti M t"lo nMu'tl ttMtkjfl lit ) WMt Poi dlKH ' ,imtt!t MtUdo Iwon Pruned mi ll ... (S'OW,tHi"a'tttClitVtMJHl EXCLUSIVE LINES ARE AIMED TOWARD AFFLUENT HISPANIC BUYERS mates that 525,000 of the 800,000 people who live in Juarez have incomes above the subsistance level. Nearly half of those 525,000 persons are potential customers for El Paso businesses, he said. In 1979, Juarez households spent $90 million in El Paso, Lee said. He estimates that residents of the sister city crossed the border every 10 days to shop in El Paso and spent an average of $26.27 per trip. Unfortunately, the Mexican national's dollar (or peso) can be an elusive animal to coax into U.S. cash registers. Marketing executives warn that a lack of hard data on media in Mexico has made advertising a hit-and-miss proposition. Radio and newspaper advertisements are thought to be less of a risk because they are relatively inexpensive. Dick deBruyn, president of de-Bruyn-Rettig Advertising Co. in El Paso, said the American advertiser finds it difficult to judge the impact of advertising placed in Mexico. "You have to buy Mexican media very carefully," deBruyn said. "I think that's why a lot of advertisers don't bother to use it." Steve Perrault, part owner of Sanders, Perrault & Morton Inc., said his agency places advertisements in Mexico on a consistent basis for El Paso clients. Although Juarez television advertising rates are competitive with El Paso stations, his firm avoids using that medium, he said. "Part of the problem is the expense of producing (a television ad) just to see how it works," Perrault said. "Radio has primarily been effective for us, so we usually recommend it to our clients." For those who want to promote on Mexican television, advertising executives advise strongly against taking American commercials and overdubbing them for Hispanic audiences. One expert in the area is Bob Hit chens, vice president for Spanish International Network in New York, which claims to reach two-thirds of the Hispanics in the United States through its Spanish-language programming. "It's deemed by Hispanics to be quite insulting to dub or lip-sync a commercial," Hitchens said. "Successful advertisers do commercials with Hispanics for Hispanics." El Paso retailers rely somewhat on an overlap into Juarez markets from advertising placed with television stations in El Paso. Lee's Juarez surveys indicate that more than 90 percent of the households in that city have at least one television set. About 15 percent of those homes are usually tuned to one of El Paso's three local television stations, he said. Although more than 2.5 million Mexican nationals live along the U.S.-Mexico border, the Hispanic market for U.S. products extends far beyond that boundary. Many retailers gear their high-quality promotions to more affluent cities in the interior of Mexico such as Chihuahua, Torreon and Mexico City. Advertising executives say the upper-class Mexican consumer is discriminating in his purchases and very conscious of brand names. INTRAmericas Marketing Services in San Antonio acts as exclusive U.S. representative for a monthly guide to English cable tele-, vision programming in Mexico City. Misael Breton, president of INTRAmericas, said surveys indicate 66 percent of the 60,000 cable subscribers in Mexico City travel more than four times a year outside of Mexico. Many Mexican citizens living in the interior make 10 or more trips to Texas annually, he said. When soliciting clients for INTRAmericas, Breton points out the best times to advertise in order to meet peak travel periods for Mexican shoppers are: March, preceding the week-long Holy Week and Easter vacation; June and July, just before the peak vacation months of July and August; August, preceding the Mexican independence holiday; and November and December preceding and during the Christmas season. As the Mexican market continues to grow, it promises to become more competitive. Fed Mart's corporate headquarters in California recently appointed a vice president in charge of Hispanic marketing. Within the last month the company has launched an all-out advertising effort to pull the Mexican consumer into its border-town store locations. Don Johnson, advertising director for Fed Mart, said that, as promotional costs continue to rise, retailers are better defining who their customers are. "They're going to find out, like we did, that there's a lot of Spanish dollars going through their doors," Johnson said. Despite this increasing market, many El Paso retailers either take the Mexican national's trade for granted or are unaware of increasing competition in that market. Sig Rosen, president of the Downtown Development Association, an organization representing 125 merchants in Downtown El Paso, said that most of the 350 to 400 Downtown retailers do very little advertising in Juarez media even though 75 percent of their sales are made to Mexican nationals. Rosen talks of loyal clientele developed by word-of-mouth advertising through the years. PaulLazovick, vice president and director of advertising for American Furniture Stores in El Paso, has a different view. Although American has been in business for 60 years and is fairly well established in the border community, Lazovick said "it's still important to lei the market know you're there." "Unless you promote actively, you're not going to get the full benefit of the potential business. from Mexico," he said. Debruyn also thinks many El Paso retailers are missing out on the border market sales. "Most El Paso advertisers that benefit from Juarez trade do so by accident," he said. "I think most of us Anglos are unaware of the large market in Mexico that wants high quality goods." r t. v. .0 Ping! Zap! Atari invasion spreads By NANCY RIVERA Times staff writer Lucy Silva grips her joy stick calmly, then whips out from behind a bunker to .unleash a barrage of laserfire at slowly advancing hordes of mechanical space monsters. The points mount up: 75, 150, 250. A bright pink UFO scuds across the television screen unharmed. Inevitably, the fatal shot is fired. The game of Space Invaders is over and Ms. Silva pops another video game cartridge into her test unit. As an in-process inspector at Atari Inc.'s El Paso plant, Ms. Silva spends her entire working day playing games such as Space Invaders, Atari's wildly successful astral video game. It's a job Space Invaders aficionados would gladly kill for. But in the El Paso manufacturing plant, Space Invaders is just one of 35 video computer cartridges assembled by lines of busy women. Video Chess, Video Checkers, Superman and Basketball are a few of the game titles. Atari opened its El Paso factory in September 1979, moving into an unused building in the Farah Manufacturing plant at 5645 Beacon. From the original 30 employees, Atari's El Paso ranks have swelled to nearly 350. El Paso hosts Atari's largest manufacturing operation outside of the company's headquarters in Sunnyvale, Calif. Atari maintains plants in Puerto Rico, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Ireland. The El Paso plant also manufactures Sears' Tele-games. Atari burst into the amusement industry in 1972, introducing a coin-operated electronic video game called PONG, Sunnyvale-based spokesman Jim Cobb said. A home version of PONG, which attached to the user's television set, was marketed in 1975. Both versions use semiconductor logic circuits that create images for display on a television screen. In 1977, the Video Computer System was introduced. With the system, interchangeable cartridges like those produced in El Paso are inserted into a video unit attached to a (Times mff pnoioi djt Juin Riot) PRODUCTION LINES KEEP BUSY AT ATARI'S EL PASO OPERATION television. Atari enjoyed initial bursts of sales as each system was introduced, Cobb said. "Sales were always good enough to keep going, but they really took off last year," he said. Adding Atari personal computers and hand-held video games to the picture, Atari did more than $400 million in sales last year. Since 1976, Atari has been a wholly owned subsidiary of Warner Communications. Cobb said Atari chose El Paso for its ease of transporation, and the available, trainable work force. Bill Medrano, Atari's El Paso personnel manager, speaks with enthusiasm of the El Paso Atari work force. "We have some girls here, in-process inspectors, who are probably world champion Space Invaders players," Medrano said. Inspector Pat Cena holds the plant record 16,000 points and working on it. "The work ethic here compared with other states: People come to work," he said. "They take pride in their work. They don't want to miss days. "I don't want to sound like a racist, but the Hispanic is one hell of a worker. You can't beat them." Nearly all of Atari's El Paso employees are women. Atari has tried to recruit men for the assembly lines with little success, Medrano said. "It's a Hispanic town and a lot of men want to do shipping and receiving. We say, 'Do you want to assemble?' and they say, 'No, I want to lift " he said. "A lot of it has to do with changing concepts and when you change concepts, especially in the Southwest ... you're going into a lot of cultural things." Medrano said Atari works closely with Work Incentive Project (WIN) and El Paso Women's Employment and Education training center to recruit women employees. "Women want to get out of the welfare system and it's up to companies like us to get people off welfare," he said. To keep the 'expanding operation from feeling growing pains, Medrano said the company holds group sessions to hear employee gripes. "The door to personnel is always open," he said. Medrano said he is constantly in the plant, and can do most of the assembly line jobs "but I slow down the lines and the girls get rid of me." At one time he knew all the employees' names. Now, Medrano said he tries to memorize 10 names a day. "I think I'm over the 200 mark." The El Paso operation is gearing up for more expansion. Construction began last week on a 128,000-square-foot manufacturing-warehouse-office building in the Vista Del Sol Industrial Center on the East Side. The $2.15 million building will be finished in August. "Atari is a recognized name in the video consumer market. We have the reputation for quality and we are a very cost effective operation," General Manager Dick Bailey said. "We are very dynamic and growth oriented. We always look at all the possibilities." nov ' I aal !!' ilk (SIX tl- ' I iioo 1 IK I"'- I I I 3 GXZF$m" :f?70i ' n Mi K J l mi I 1 ) T hW& 0 i 1 f ! K r x;vxt J ;.'.G I I 39fr I ; . f4 Ml? X 1 1 ?qi TESTING A SPACE INVADERS GAME CARTRIDGE rr

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