By: Michael Serres
June 13, 2012
The motor coaches from Sonora pulled into Tucson in the wee hours, jammed with passengers on a mission.
“It was a shopping frenzy,” recalled J. Felipe Garcia, who oversees Mexico marketing for the Metropolitan Tucson Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Between November and December of last year, 47 motor coaches carrying a total of 1,800 shoppers from Hermosillo took Tucson by storm. After driving through the night, they shopped for 18 hours, hitting Foothills Mall, Tucson Mall and several chain stores. They then piled their bags and boxes into the motor coaches and headed for home.
Mexican shoppers are critical to Tucson retailers, spending about $1 billion in stores
and restaurants annually, Garcia said.
“Of the Mexican nationals headed to Southern Arizona, 67 percent are coming to shop,” said Jill Harlow, director of marketing for General Growth Properties, which owns Park Place Mall and Tucson Mall. “That is a lot of shoppers.”
The malls work with MTCVB to attract shoppers. They advertise in El Imparcial newspaper and use social media to connect with shoppers south of the border.
“This past holiday season, social media was really a game changer for how people approached their holiday shopping,” Harlow said. Facebook was used to share details of special events with shoppers south of the border. Businesses like Macy’s used social media to let shoppers know they could ship items to Mexico.
“These dollars are so important to local retailers,” Harlow said. “Visitors from Sonora keep our local economy rolling and keep people employed.”
At La Encantada, Mexican nationals make up between 25 and 30 percent of all shoppers, said Melanie Sutton, marketing manager.
The center offers special shopping experiences for people from Mexico, and participates in trade shows and fashion shows south of the border. In October, stores in La Encantada took part in a fashion show in Hermosillo attended by more than 1,000 women.
La Encantada hosted Fashions Night Out last September, a special event for women from Mexico with second homes in Tucson. “We sent information through Facebook and women shared it with their girlfriends,” Sutton said.
About 30 women enjoyed a private reception at Tiffany & Co., dinner at NoRTH and an evening of shopping. “We created a special shopping experience for these ladies,” she said.
La Encantada works with resorts like the Westin La Paloma to organize special events for shoppers from Mexico. Among their favorite destinations are Tiffany, Luis Vuitton, Crate & Barrel, Lucky Brand, True Religion, Cole Haan, Apple, Blanco Tacos + Tequila and RA Sushi Bar Restaurant.
The center is using Facebook to stay in touch with shoppers throughout the year.
“Mexican nationals are very savvy with Facebook,” Sutton said. “Social media is the storefront and the way to get them information.”
Matthew Winters, director of Tiffany in Tucson, said customers from Mexico have a high level of interest in the brand.
“Since opening our Tucson store in 2006, we have developed great relationships with our friends from Mexico and look forward to many more years and additional friendships,” Winters said.