Jennifer Lopez launches new cellphone venture

Viva Movil to open 15 cellphone stores around the country catering to Latinos

Jennifer Lopez, singer and actress announced Wednesday she is launching a new cell phone business in partnership with Verizon.

Attired in an all-white dress, Ms. Lopez made the announcement at a press conference at the Venetian Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The new company, Viva Movil, will have a chain of 15 cellphone stores and will target Latinos. The first store will open its doors at an undisclosed location in New York on June 15. Other stores are expected to open in Los Angeles and Miami.

The stores will have bilingual staff and provide a “culturally relevant shopping experience,” a spokesman for Viva Movil said.

“Latinos need a place to go and they need to be catered to, because it is such a growing, growing demographic and market and people want to capture that, and they deserve to be catered to,” Ms. Lopez said in an interview.
Marketing cellphone service specifically to Latinos has not been successful in the United States in the past. Movida Communications , a U.S. cell company targeting Spanish speakers filed for bankruptcy in 2008 after raising $40 million in 2007.

The U.S. wireless market does have a large Latin American presence, but it is low-profile. Tracfone, owned by the Mexican cellphone company, America Movil, is the largest provider of no-contract service, with 23 million phones active. However, service is not marketed specifically to Latinos.

Most attempts to cater to Latinos have concentrated on low-cost, no-contract service. By partnering with Verizon, Lopez is joining with a company that is focused on premium, contract-based service, backed by a top-rated wireless network.

Ms. Lopez is no novice to business. In addition to owning a film and television production company she has launched clothing and perfume lines.

She said she was not looking specifically to get into the wireless business. “It was just one of those things where you sit down with people and you start spitballing,” she said.

Her new company, Viva Movil, represents a partnership between her, the device distribution company, BrightStar and Verizon’s largest mobile retailer, Moorehead Communications. Ms. Lopez’s partners in the company said they are aiming at what they described as a huge and growing U.S. Latino market of 52 million.

Ms. Lopez said Latinos in the U.S. have a population growth rate of 43 percent, far above that of the overall population, and have unique characteristics as consumers. “We are bicultural, bilingual, and increasingly U.S.-born,” she said. “As modern Latinos, we do things differently, including how we shop for wireless devices.”
She stated Viva Movil stores will be designed carefully, keeping in mind the unique characteristics of the customers they serve. In addition to the bilingual staff, the stores will have children’s play areas because many Latinos shop with their children. Ms. Lopez said she was involved in designing the stores and Viva Movil device accessories.

The company will also sell products through its Facebook page, where consumers can tell others about the products they bought and get personalized recommendations.

Viva Movil did not announce any brand-specific devices. But R. Marcelo Claure, CEO of Brightstar stated the company has had discussions with manufacturers about the idea.

The company also had no specialized content or software to announce on Wednesday, though according to Marni Walden, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Verizon Wireless, the company continues to explore that area.

By Perviz Walji