From the National Newspaper Publishers Association
This is the year. 2015. It has been talked about for some time—the year that the projected spending of African-Americans will reach $1.1 trillion a year.
The number of African-American households earning $75,000 or more has grown by 63.9 percent in the last decade, a rate greater than that of the overall population. African-Americans also shop more often than all other groups.
These are just a few of the facts pulled from a recent report compiled by the 71-year-old National Newspaper Publishers Association, known as the Black Press of America, and The Nielsen Company, a global monitor of media, marketing and consumer information.
With this information in hand, coalitions across the country are calling on Black consumers to not only recognize the magnitude of their spending power, but to use it as a tool to address other issues that impact the Black community, particularly as a new generation finds itself protesting against issues such as police brutality, but are faced with how to turn these demonstrations into transformative movements with long-lasting impact.
People want change. But how can the momentum of these protests such as the ones taking place in Ferguson, Mo., and New York, be used to create solutions that improve the conditions of entire communities.
For example, one statistic tells that if Black consumers, who only spend an average of six cents of every dollar they spend with Black owned businesses, would double their spending to 12 cents per dollar, Black businesses could create nearly 600,000 new jobs, helping to address the disproportionate rate of Black unemployment.
For several years now, a Philadelphia organization has asked Black consumers across the nation to direct a minimum of $20 per week in spending to Black-owned businesses, projecting that this effort will turn $1 million per week back into predominately Black communities throughout the country.
In New Orleans, organizers of the We are the Missing Piece campaign have increased the call, asking Black New Orleanians to commit to spending at least $50 a week with Black owned businesses and Black service providers. Just 20,000 Black New Orleanians taking part in this initiative would lead to $1 million circulating in the Black community weekly.
The We are the Missing Piece campaign launched last spring with great participation from everyday citizens, and organizers are retooling the effort for the new year.
Meanwhile, NNPA leaders say the report, released last fall, will generally empower African-Americans with the knowledge of their worth. But it will also empower Black newspapers with a new weapon – credible information about the power of Black consumers – to defeat advertising discrimination.
“Every time we go and talk to advertisers, including Fortune 500 Companies, there’s always the possibility that they will ask us, ‘Where did you get your information? How do you claim these numbers?’” says NNPA Chairman Cloves Campbell, publisher of the Arizona Informant. “Now we have a partner that can say, ‘Hey, these numbers came from us.’ ”
The 19-page report, “The State of the African-American Consumer”, was released during a conference at the National Press Club.
NNPA, a federation of more than 200 Black-owned newspapers around the country, has long battled bias against the Black Press.
Now that the documentation is complete, Cheryl Pearson-McNeil, senior vice president of Public Affairs at The Nielsen Company, says it can be used for Black newspapers as well as other Black institutions.
“This report really is a valuable piece of communication that I am so hopeful that your companies, your organizations, your businesses will be able to utilize to help tell the African-American consumer story,” Pearson-McNeil told the standing room only audience at the press conference.
Among those present were NNPA publishers, corporate and advertising executives as well as representatives of the civil rights and legal communities.
“This is going to have a tremendous rippling affect. The bottom line is that at the end of the day, we want to hold people accountable,” said Danny Bakewell, former NNPA chairman who initiated the Nielsen-NNPA partnership that led to the study. “We spend our money. We expect you to be a good corporate citizen and return a fair share to our community at all levels. If we represent 25 percent of your market share, it’s not unreasonable for us to ask for 25 percent return to our community.”
Campbell says he sees the report working in three ways for the average Black citizen:
“One, making them more aware of what their buying and purchasing power is. Two, giving them an opportunity to understand all the products that they use and all the services that they spend money on. And three, giving them the opportunity to empower themselves, to be more assertive when they go to spend their dollars, and make sure that people understand and respect the fact that we come to your stores, we spend our dollars, we make sure that your businesses are in business and so it’s an overall affect that happens from it.”
Bakewell agreed with Pearson-McNeil that the report will be used by various organizations for diverse purposes. For example, he said it will also be given as a tool to members of the Congressional Black Caucus and Civil Rights leaders.
But, mostly it is viewed as the ultimate Nielsen-confirmed evidence that Black corporations have downplayed the value of the Black dollar, which can now be used as leverage.
“What it will do is substantiate in the minds of Black people the power that we have based on the money that we’re spending and specifically allow us to direct our recognition to certain companies that we’re spending our money with,” said Bakewell. “And when those companies recognize the kind of buying power that we have, it then gives us more influence with those companies. And of course the reverse of that is that to the extent that they’re not supporting our communities, then why should we be supporting them?”
The New Orleans Tribune staff contributed to this report.