Sam's All Business for Hispanic Heritage Month, as Walmart Boosts Latino Initiatives

Sam's Club is taking its own unique approach to celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, one that combines its desire to attract an increasingly important consumer group and to reinforce its position as the club for small business.

Sam's Club is working with the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to launch a nationwide contest, Como Si: Doing Business Today for Tomorrow! The contest will be a promotional vehicle for the chamber as well as the retailer. To enter the contest, participants upload a video running between one and two minutes to describing what they have done to â€" as a company statement put it -- "keep up and keep going" in today's tough economic environment. Representatives from the chamber will provide training to small businesses throughout the country that will help them create submission videos.

Contest winners, 10 in all, get a trip Sam's Club headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., to learn new ways of boosting their bottom lines by incorporating technology into their businesses. The contest, launched as Hispanic Heritage Month did on Sept. 15, will draw to a close with the announcement of the winners, an event planned for Nov. 15.

The Sam's Club contest isn't the only initiative Walmart has developed for Hispanic Heritage Month. In fact its major effort is a program dubbed La Mejor Herencia es una Buena Educación, or the best heritage is a good education, a national campaign, that includes television, radio, print and online advertising designed to showcase Hispanic students as role models with a focus on Hispanic Scholarship Fund/Walmart Scholarship Program recipients.

Yet, while charitable efforts are an established method for a retailer to reach an ethnic community, the Sam's initiative is something more. It's carefully crafted as to audience and message and more deeply involves the retailer with both individuals and institutions in the Hispanic business community. And it does so just at a time when Walmart is honing its approach to Latinos in general with the launch of Supermercado de Walmart, based on its Neighborhood Markets model, and Mas Club, based on Sam's. Of course, in both cases, the operations are greatly reconfigured to address preferences of the Hispanic communities in the Phoenix and Houston metropolitan areas that they serve.

The Sam's effort also enhances a relationship with the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which Walmart has supported with grants and which works with the company on its diversity initiatives.

Although Hispanic Heritage Month is becoming a more important event for retail in general, the event will have particular importance to Walmart both in its namesake and Sam's operations as they expand initiatives in the Latino community. And, given the Sam's example, expect more elaborate and sophisticated programs involving the Hispanic community emerging from Walmart.