Cross-border shopping reverses

The strength of the U.S. dollar is reversing traffic flows at the border here, with more visitors venturing into Canada to shop and fewer Canadians heading south.
In September, 42,862 visitors passed through Canada Customs here, up almost 10 percent from last September. On the flip side, the number of Canadians returning from the States dropped almost 25 percent over this time last year, pulling down its revenue (duty and GST) by 14 percent to $86,000.
Five years ago, that figure was at $125,000.
With the peak tourism season over, those figures are representative of the number of Canadians spending their dollars in the U.S.
“No doubt it’s due to the exchange rate,” said Greg Mercure, district director for Canada Customs, which was at 56.95 percent yesterday to buy U.S. dollars (more than double what it was in 1992–27.1 percent).
One International Falls resident, who requested anonimity, estimated she save $25 (U.S.) a week on groceries alone by shopping in Fort Frances.
“That’s a lot of money to me,” she said. “I can’t afford not to shop over there. And I just love that Safeway store.”
She also said she did some clothes and shoes shopping here.
U.S. Customs port director Wally Schold explained there basically was no limit as to the amount U.S. citizens could bring back.
“We have a $200 limit just for the day, or $400 for 48 hours,” he said but stressed that didn’t include Canadian or U.S.-made products.
Meanwhile, the rising number of U.S. shoppers has prompted the local Business Improvement Area to launch a six-month advertising campaign to help promote Fort Frances businesses south of the border.
At its regular meeting Sept. 24, the BIA board unanimously agreed to a $6,000 promotion that would run right through the Christmas season, targeting the Virginia, Bemidji, and International Falls areas through radio, print, and television ads.