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Brazilians Shelling Out Benjamins In South Florida

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – From real estate to shopping sprees, more and more Brazilians are streaming into Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando flush with cash and ready to spend.

In a state beat up by unemployment and brutal housing market, businesses are doing what they can to court the Brazilian bucks – some have even hired Portuguese speaking employees.

Sergio Caniato, who stuffed a suitcase full of shoes and socks during a recent trip to Sawgrass Mills Mall in Sunrise said if you’re from Brazil it just makes sense.

“Here is half the price of Brazil,” said Caniato. “Brazil like these are three hundred dollars. Here they are eighty dollars.”

Brazilian, whose pockets are full of cash from a booming economy and a favorable exchange rate, are coming to the U.S. in record numbers. More than a dozen flights a day bring them to their favorite destination, Miami, not just to vacation and shop, but to buy.

Five years ago Christiano Piquet, a Brazilian himself, opened a small real estate agency hoping to capitalize on the wave he saw coming. Now he has 75 employees and 80% of his clients are Brazilian. Most of Piquet’s clients are afraid to spend if they like what they see. He said the majority buy properties between $850 thousand to one million dollars.

“Brazilians, they like good stuff. They like the best. They have good taste and obviously they have the cash right now,” said Piquet.

They like name brands too.

“Burberry, Coach, Prada,” said Sawgrass Mills General Manager Luanne Lenberg, “They love the name brand merchandise.”

Lenberg said over the last few years they’ve seen a change in their Brazilian customers. At first, she said, they would arrive in busses in groups.

“They’re now coming over with their families making individual trips and they’re coming in and renting a rental car,” said Lenberg.

In Orlando, mall bus tours are big business and getting bigger. Pegasus Tours, which carried 15 thousand Brazilians in 2011, expects nearly double that number in 2012.

CNN contributed to this report

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