The busy Peace Arch border crossing is a frequent route for Lower Mainland residents heading to shop in Bellingham.

Cross-border shopping surge called ‘small’

HST was bigger factor than recent duty-free limit change for overnight trips: Bellingham official

Cross-border shopping by bargain-hunting Canadians got a new lift in recent months with higher duty-free limits for overnight trips introduced in June.

But Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Ken Opplinger said he believes the increased flow of B.C. residents heading south this summer was relatively modest.

He was reacting to new Statistics Canada data showing a 7.5 per cent jump in overnight travel to the U.S. in June.

“There’s been an increase since June but not nearly so much as other places,” Opplinger said. “It’s pretty small here.”

Bellingham had already been experiencing heavy flows of Lower Mainland shoppers coming south for some time, he said, thanks to a combination of B.C.’s introduction of the harmonized sales tax in 2010 and the rise to parity of the Canadian dollar.

“We’ve certainly had substantial increases for a little over two years since the HST first hit,” Opplinger said. “It’s certainly the highest we’ve seen since the early 1990s.”

Canada Border Services Agency staff have also been “much more lax” in checking returning Canadians and enforcing duty payments, he added.

Another draw continues to be the sometimes wide differential between prices retailers charge in Canada compared to stores in the U.S.

Opplinger said his office is still working to defuse friction after some Bellingham locals accused deal-crazed Canadians of being impolite or pushy and set up a Facebook page demanding the local Costco serve only Americans at certain hours.

“We’re still getting emails from Canadians saying ‘Now that I know what you really think I don’t want to come and shop there anymore.'”

He described it as a small number of people not comporting themselves appropriately, but added the vast majority of Bellingham residents have friends and family from Canada and clearly understand the economic benefit from B.C. visitors.

On June 1, duty-free exemptions for Canadians returning home rose from $50 to $200 for a 24-hour stay and from $200 to $800 for stays of at least 48 hours.

Mark Startup, president and CEO of Shelfspace, said it’s difficult to say if cross-border shopping has cost B.C. retailers more sales in recent months.

Retailers here have continued to report climbing sales, he added.

The overnight duty-free changes should not have affected day trippers, Startup said.

And he doubts most shoppers would save enough to justify an overnight stay and the time committed to qualify for the bigger limits.

“You really have to wonder if the difference in the exemption alone has had an impact.”

Shelf Space and other retail organizations continue to lobby the federal government to eliminate or significantly reduce tariffs Canadian retailers pay on many imported goods so they can sell at prices closer to those offered in the U.S.

Just Posted

Aldergrove dog and trainer audition for America’s Got Talent

Dancing duo raise bipolar awareness in tribute to afflicted wife

Remaining grocers in Aldergrove welcoming new customers

Safeway’s May closure coincides with major changes in other stores

Aldergrove envisions what the Valley could like like through UBC students’ blueprints

‘Why hasn’t this already happened?’: Interurban rail meeting pushes for transit past 276 Street

Langley riders Laskin and Bennett nominated to Canadian Equestrian Team

Among 12 selected for Pan American Games in Lima, Peru

VIDEO: ‘Avengers: Endgame’ to be re-released with new footage

‘Avatar’ holds global box office record at $2.788 billion, while ‘Endgame’ stands at $2.743 billion…

Elias Pettersson wins Calder Trophy as NHL’s top rookie

Vancouver forward first Canuck to win award since Pavel Bure in 1992

FVRD chair calls B.C. incineration plan for Philippines waste ‘disturbing’

Metro Vancouver ‘uniquely capable’ of safely disposing of waste coming back to Canada, say officials

VIDEO: Acknowledging skeptics, finance minister vows to build Trans Mountain project

Bill Morneau said he recognizes ‘huge amount of anxiety’ in Calgary over future of oil and gas sector

Shovels could be in the ground on Trans Mountain by September, CEO says

Ian Anderson points to weeks likely required for NEB to reinstate 2016 regulatory record

Scorpion gives birth after hitching ride in B.C. woman’s luggage

A Vancouver woman inadvertently brought the animal home from a trip to Cuba

RCMP allows officers to grow beards

Members can now wear beards and goatees, as long as they’re neatly groomed

Girl, 10, poisoned by carbon monoxide at B.C. campsite could soon return home

Lucille Beaurain died and daughter Micaela Walton, 10, was rushed to B.C. Children’s Hospital on May 18

30 years later: B.C. woman uses sidewalk chalk to reclaim site of her sexual assault

Vancouver woman didn’t think her powerful story, written in chalk, would ignite such support

Most Read