Abbotsford News

Cross-border shopping: Poll shows prices main focus of shoppers

An estimated $140 million to $235 million Canadian dollars flow to Bellingham every year for general merchandise, restaurant food and drinks. Some of that traffic passes through the Huntingdon crossing in Abbotsford. - John Morrow photo
An estimated $140 million to $235 million Canadian dollars flow to Bellingham every year for general merchandise, restaurant food and drinks. Some of that traffic passes through the Huntingdon crossing in Abbotsford.
— image credit: John Morrow photo

A large majority of Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley residents regularly cross the border to shop in the U.S., according to a new poll.

Nearly three-quarters of respondents to the Insights West poll said they drove across the border to shop in the last year and many are making frequent forays for cross-border shopping.

On average, those polled drove to the U.S. more than five times in the past year, about half had crossed three or more times and a sizable minority of 15 per cent said they'd crossed 13 times or more.

Cross-border trips are becoming more common, the poll shows, finding 21 per cent say they are crossing more often, while 12 per cent are going less often and the remaining two-thirds are unchanged.

Lower prices for the same products in the U.S. were the top reason for trips over the line, cited by 85 per cent of those polled.

"Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley shoppers are very conscious that retail prices in the U.S. are often better than in Canada," Insights West senior vice-president Catherine Dawson said.

The strong Canadian dollar was also a factor listed by 84 per cent, 74 per cent said cheaper flights out of Seattle or Bellingham was a reason and 69 per cent listed the more generous rules on duty-free exemptions on overnight trips announced by the federal government last June.

Dawson said it doesn't appear likely that online shopping through U.S. websites will replace all the cross-border shopping of Lower Mainland residents.

Many of those polled said they believe it's cheaper to drive to the U.S. than to pay shipping for products bought online from American firms.

More than three-quarters of those polled also said it's just fun to take the trip to the U.S. and 69 per cent said they can find products not available in Canada when they shop in the U.S.

More than a third of those polled said they have a U.S. mail box or address where they can pick up goods they've ordered but which either can't be shipped to Canada or would cost too much once shipping is included.

Buying gas was the most popular purchase – 89 per cent said they'd fuel up either regularly or occasionally on trips to the U.S. – but clothing, shoes and accessories (81 per cent) and groceries (78 per cent) were also among the spending leaders.

About 70 per cent of those polled agree Canadians shopping in the U.S. hurts the local B.C. economy, and about half agreed it may mean job losses here.

Those polled were roughly split when asked if cross-border shopping is a false economy, where they spend more on travel than is saved.

An overwhelming 91 per cent of those polled said Canadian retailers must improve their pricing if they want to prevent shoppers heading instead to the U.S.

"These opinions suggest that local residents are more concerned with their own finances and getting a good deal when they shop than they are with how their behaviour might be impacting the broader Canadian economy and population," Dawson said.

The online survey of 1,077 Lower Mainland adults was conducted Jan. 30 to Feb. 3.

For more details on this and other polls see www.insightswest.ca.

TOP U.S. PURCHASES

(Poll respondents were asked how frequently they spend on the following items when they cross the U.S. border.)

  • Gas – 69 per cent regularly; 20 per cent occasionally
  • Groceries – 49 per cent regularly; 29 per cent occasionally
  • Clothing/shoes/accessories – 35 per cent regularly; 46 per cent occasionally
  • Electronics/computers – Three per cent regularly; 19 per cent occasionally
  • Furniture – Four per cent occasionally; zero regularly.
  • Dining out – 42 per cent regularly; 36 per cent occasionally
  • Overnight accommodation – 19 per cent regularly; 35 per cent occasionally
  • Entertainment – 11 per cent regularly; 32 per cent occasionally
  • Casino gambling – seven per cent regularly; 16 per cent occasionally

 

 

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