Weak Canadian dollar flipping cross-border commerce

Sep 4, 2015

As we bear down on the last long weekend of the summer, many American retailers near the Canadian border may be getting a bit anxious about their bottom lines. The Labor Day weekend is one of the busiest of the year, but this year could be more than just a disappointment.  

The long lines of Canadian cars, SUVs and vans that usually snake their way through border crossings this time of year, packed with expectant shoppers, could be significantly shorter this September.

The main reason is the Canadian dollar, affectionately known as the Loonie. Just over a year ago, it stood at 93 cents U.S. More recently, it had difficulty staying above the 75-cent mark.

Many shoppers will be crossing the Peace Bridge this holiday weekend, but a surprising number may be heading north.
Credit File photo

That is keeping many Canadians at home. Normally, they would be flocking to malls and cities on the U.S. side, looking for bargains for children about to go back to school.

But many say it's not an option.

"We were going to go to the states this past weekend but we decided not to because the dollar is so poor," said one shopper.

It's not just the shoppers. Some travelers, too, are shying away from U.S. destinations because of the lower value of the Loonie.

In the short term, it's good news for Canadian retailers. But many still have to buy in U.S. dollars, so the costs will eventually catch up.

On the flip side, more Americans are crossing into Canada, where they get more bang for the greenback. With the exchange rate at 30 percent in their favor, they're spending more and staying longer.

So you may still see those long lines of vehicles at the border, but on closer inspection they're Americans heading north.