Tuesday, May 24, 2016

US malls bordering Canada offering specials to lure Canadians as loonie dives

The low loonie or Canadian dollar began to fall against the U.S. dollar last fall. Before its fall Canadians often went on shopping trips across the border to buy many items at lower prices.

Although the loonie has recovered slightly to around 76 cents U.S., it is still too low to entice Canadian shoppers to travel to the US. The loss of Canadian shoppers has had a detrimental effect on malls that previously had made extra profits from the Canadian trade. Stephen Fine, president of the resource site CrossBorderShopping, said: "They're really noticing the decrease in Canadian Shoppers now." Some malls are using special deals to lure Canadian customers back. The deals range from gifts, to at-par exchange. Some start this Victoria Day weekend.
Statistics Canada reports that 977,686 Canadian autos made same day trips to the U.S. this March, a decline of 15 percent from last year. Overnight trips declined by almost as much at 13 percent.
Bells Fair, a Mall in Bellingham, Washington, just south of Vancouver B.C., has 18 retailers including the Gap, JCPenny and Macy's that are accepting the loonie at par until Remembrance Day in November during Canadian long weekends, including Victoria Day weekend. General manager of the mall,Rene Morris, said: "I just thought, how can we help our Canadian shoppers?They want to come, but the loonie is low." Morris estimates that she has lost about 25 percent of her Canadian customers compared to about two years ago when the loonie was above 90 cents U.S. She said the whole community is feeling the decline. Parking lots are no longer full of the blue and white B.C. licence plates. She said she had to do a lot of convincing to get retailers to accept the plan but once she got Macy's to sign up, many more joined. Hotels are also joining in, offering special rates for Canadians. The Sheraton Four Points will offer room rates at par on the weekend.
In other areas of Canada near the U.S. border are offering deals. Walden Galleria in Buffalo has joined with a nearby Hampton Inn to offer shoppers rooms at par plus a $20 gift certificate. The offer will continue until the end of June. Other retailers in the Galleria are offering Canadians discounts of up to 25 percent. Shoppers in Toronto and other southern Ontario cities near the border will probably be lured by the offers. A retail outlet in Niagara Falls NY, right on the border is offering a $20 Visa gift card with every $200 spent up to a maximum of $100 in gift cards. Marketing manager Meghan Ayers said: "There's a direct correlation to Canadian traffic when the loonie declines. We're incentivizing Canadians to cross the border." Fine of CrossBorderShopping thinks that the deals and warm summer weather will entice more Canadians to shop in the U.S.
The diving loonie is also having a negative effect on snowbirds. Snowbirds are Canadians, many of them retired, who travel south, mostly to the southern U.S., in order to avoid harsh Canadian winters. Grace Tenhoeve, 71, used to be a regular snowbird, escaping Canadian winter's in Waterdown, Ontario, every year and staying in Florida. This year she has decided she just cannot afford to go:"When the dollar dropped I said, You know what, I'm not going,...I'm not that rich." She lives alone on a fixed income.
As with retailers on the borders, those in other areas of the U.S. who earn a considerable amount of their income from Canadians are giving big discounts to attract them back..Scottsdale, Arizona, is one of the cities trying to entice Canadians to return. Rachel Pearson of the city's visitors bureau brags: "Scottsdale loves Canadians, so come on down." Canadians are the biggest group of international visitors. Some businesses are accepting the loonie at par. The city even has catchy ads running in Canada such as: "Get some loonie love in Scottsdale." The ads also appear on line. Deals include meal vouchers, up to 25 percent off accommodation, and discounts on boat tours, shopping and spas.
Last November and October car trips to the U.S. declined by 23 percent compared to the year before. Plane trips were down 6.3 percent The higher US dollar has had the result that sales of all-inclusive trips to Mexico and the Caribbean have jumped more than ten percent.
Places such as Kissimmee, Florida, are trying to counteract the decline in Canadian visitors. On the website of Alexander Holiday Homes we hear; "The Canadian exchange rate being so low is causing many to hesitate traveling to Florida this year. We have the solution!" The solution is a 30 percent discount. Myrtle Beach in South Carolina has a number of hotels and tourist attractions that offer Canadians discounts of up to 65 percent. Nearly a million Canadians visit Myrtle Beach each year. The director of marketing with Vacation Myrtle Beach Resorts running 14 resorts notes the chain offers discounts of 25 percent for Canadians staying at hotels for at least a week. He said that the chain did not want to weaken any ties to people who had been returning for years.
Tenhoeve has decided to stay put. She a community indoor pool where the water temperature is 88 degrees Fahrenheit. She claims she does not need to go to Florida. As the appended video shows, some Canadians are taking advantage of the high U.S. dollar by selling off homes they bought when the U.S. housing market dropped drastically.

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