Fewer cross-border shoppers are making the trek south now that the loonie is languishing.

Road trips to U.S. down sharply

Cross-border shopping in decline for B.C. bargain hunters as loonie languishes

Fewer B.C. residents are driving into the U.S. now that the loonie no longer goes as far south of the border.

New data for January, February and March from the Canada Border Services Agency shows there were nearly 14 per cent fewer trips by southbound Canadians at Lower Mainland land border crossings compared to the same months of 2014, and a nearly 20 per cent drop from 2013.

The loss of appetite for cross-border shopping was most apparent at the Aldergrove crossing, where trips were down 32 per cent from a year ago, and at Abbotsford-Huntington, which was down 18 per cent, while the decline was about eight per cent at the Peace Arch and Point Roberts crossings.

“This is tough sledding for the Whatcom County guys,” SFU marketing professor Lindsay Meredith said. “They’ll be suffering big time.”

Retailers in northern Washington depend heavily on Lower Mainland shoppers, he said, and their local governments, in turn, need the resulting flow of sales taxes to maintain services.

He noted the drop in southbound road trips closely mirrors the dive of the Canadian dollar.

The loonie is worth just over 80 cents U.S. as of Tuesday and has dipped to as low as 78 in recent weeks. That’s a 12 per cent drop from 91 cents U.S. a year ago.

Last year was the first year since 2009 that the loonie spent much time below 90 cents and it was close to par for much of 2010 through 2013.

Meredith said the shift is good news for Canadian businesses that now face less intense competition from U.S. retailers.

It may also mean more tax revenue for the province and even TransLink through its gas tax if B.C. families shop closer to home.

“Some of the tax dollars that used to go south and support their infrastructure will be staying here to support Canada,” Meredith said.

He also predicts a good year for tourism operators in B.C. as more Americans head north to take advantage of their strong greenback.

Tourism Vancouver has already recorded an 8.2 per cent increase in U.S. overnight visitors to Metro Vancouver in January.

Retail Council of Canada spokesman Mark Startup said he’s less sure Americans will come north because of the dollar differential, noting they don’t follow currency changes as closely as Canadians.

“It’s interesting that when the Americans have got massive spending power in relation to the Canadian dollar it seems to be less of an incentive for them,” he said.

“Americans will come into our members’ stores and purchase goods and often don’t realize how much further their dollars go.”

Startup said the decline in crossings isn’t surprising and added the drop in the dollar is clearly the main reason.

As a result, competition from U.S. retailers has faded as a prime concern of his members, Startup said.

“When we talk about the public policy and economic challenges that keep them up at night, cross-border shopping has fallen off the list.”

Startup said two other factors influence cross-border shopping – the ongoing advance of online retailing and the growth in foreign retailers operating in Canada, who he said offer easier access to products that in past years when a trip to the U.S. was required.

BORDER CROSSINGS | Create infographics


Just Posted

Hope mothers work together to improve access, connections for autistic children

Families with autistic children in rural areas have difficulty accessing resources, each other

UPDATE: Man with gunshot wound drives into ditch on Chilliwack River Road

Serious crimes investigators believe early morning shooting to be targeted

WATCH: Rally at MP’s office Friday in Chilliwack to stop KM pipeline

Water samples from Chilliwack rivers were delivered to MP Strahl’s office in a symbolic gesture

Editor’s view: A Hopeful start to the community’s first 10 km run

Good mix of pomp and circumstance, variable terrain and silliness at Sunday’s run

Lower Mainland could see spring flurries

Snow expected at higher elevations

Vancouver Aquarium’s resident octopus released into ocean

Staff let the Giant Pacific octopus go into the waters near Bowen Island so she can reproduce

Calving season brings hope for Cariboo ranchers

Still a lot of work ahead to recover from the wildfires

Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond wins figure skating world title

The 22-year-old fwon the women’s singles crown with her Black Swan routine

B.C. pooches celebrate National Puppy Day

Check out some of the submissions from around B.C. for National Puppy Day 2018

Alberta tells B.C. to stop opposing pipelines if it doesn’t like gas prices

John Horgan said he would like to see the federal government step in to deal with high gas prices.

B.C. mother hit in truck rampage dies

Family confirms mother of four Kelly Sandoval dies almost two months after being hit.

B.C. officials failed to tell Kiwis Fraser Health CEO had been fired in 2014

New Zealand spending scandal exposes Dr. Nigel Murray 2014 exit from B.C. job

PHOTOS: Students exhibit stunning paper couture dresses

22 paper made gowns will be on display at Vancouver’s Oakridge Centre until March 27

BCHL Today: Prince George avoids elimination with game five win

BCHL Today is a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

Most Read