African-American women make up one of the most visible, fastest-growing and influential market segments today.

So says Miriam Muley, CEO of The 85% Niche, and previously executive director of diversity growth markets at General Motors Corp.

The concept of ethnic target marketing was born as a result of the tremendous growth of African Americans, she says.

Based on estimates from Packaged Facts and the Selig Economic Center, Muley says the buying power of black women exceeds that of Latinos and Asian women combined, at $450 billion a year, and is expected to grow soon to about $600 billion.

Muley, the author of a recent paper on incremental business, suggests that accumulated assets over the years by African-American women, whether homeownership or entrepreneurial ventures, makes them an economically vibrant consumer audience.

According to her report, African-American women:

  • Account for 58% of all new-car and truck sales made among African Americans, compared to 44% of women overall.

  • Are more likely to purchase prestige and luxury vehicles than women in general.

  • Represented 52.5% of all African Americans at 19.1 million in 2000. They are expected to increase an additional 9.6% by 2010

  • By 2055, are expected to be the gatekeepers of the transfer of $1.1 trillion to $3.4 trillion of their wealth to off-spring.

Based on diversity population-growth trends, businesses will be increasingly more dependent upon diverse women of color to achieve sales targets, Muley says.

“As the general market declines in size, the diverse and women's markets take on more and more importance,” she says.

“Focusing on the needs of demographic and gender groups is essential to fundamental business growth.”