In the Arizona desert near the Mexican border, an experiment is under way. Hispanic Retail Group (HRG), a company formed by Forest City Enterprises, The Legaspi Co. and Streetscape Equities, is spending $12 million to renovate and reposition the 300,000-square-foot Southgate Mall to cater to Hispanic shoppers.

Southgate is just one of many properties HRG hopes to dress up to attract Hispanic shoppers. The company's goal is to invest $100 million, says Andres Friedman, vice president of Forest City Commercial Development's Western Division.

“Everybody understands the growth and purchasing power of these ethnic groups, but they've not yet figured out how to reach them,” Friedman says.

Overall, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Hispanics are migrating from traditionally diverse markets and expanding their combined buying power to more than $1 trillion.

Still, most national retail real estate owners are hesitant to put ethnic retailers in their centers, says Gwen McKenzie, a broker with Sperry Van Ness, a national real estate brokerage firm. There's always the concern that a center might be “too ethnic,” turning off the mainstream shopping population.

STATES WITH HIGHEST CONCENTRATION OF ETHNIC SPENDING

WHITE AFRICAN-AMERICAN
1 Vermont 97.9% 1 District of Columbia 32.4%
2 Maine 97.8 2 Mississippi 24.0
3 New Hampshire 96.9 3 Maryland 20.7
4 Idaho 96.4 4 Louisiana 20.1
5 Wyoming 96.3 5 Georgia 19.4
6 Iowa 96.1 6 South Carolina 19.1
7 West Virginia 95.5 7 Alabama 17.3
8 North Dakota 95.3 8 North Carolina 14.5
9 Utah 95.3 9 Delaware 13.4
10 Montana 94.6 10 Virginia 13.1
ASIAN-AMERICAN LATINO
1 Hawaii 50.7% 1 New Mexico 29.5%
2 California 10.9 2 Texas 19.2
3 New Jersey 7.2 3 California 17.2
4 New York 6.1 4 Arizona 15.2
5 Washington 5.9 5 Florida 14.3
6 Nevada 4.7 6 Nevada 13.2
7 Maryland 4.6 7 Colorado 10.8
8 Illinois 4.5 8 New York 9.5
9 Virginia 4.4 9 New Jersey 8.6
10 Massachusetts 4.1 10 Illinois 8.1
Source: Selig Center, University of Georgia