Cross border shopping exemption changes making an impact according to Nelson Chamber of Commerce
It’s been just over a month since the new personal exemption limits changed at the border and it’s just one more thing putting local businesses at a disadvantage, said Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce executive director Tom Thomson.
“There’s no question that when you make it easier to bring goods across the line it causes concern,” said Thomson, adding that online shopping is also making things easier.
As of June 1, the personal exemption limit was raised from $50 to $200 for an absence of more than 24 hours and doubled for 48 hour absences from $400 to $800 a person. Same day trip exemptions remain with no exemptions.
For Nelson residents, the Nelway border crossing near Salmo and Metaline Falls, Washington, is 86 kilometers away while the largest shopping centre in Spokane is a two-and-a-half hour drive or 239 kilometers.
But that doesn’t stop the drive for cheap gas, groceries and other goods like books and sporting goods.
“Whether you are going to Kelowna or across the border when you take money outside of the market it is still detrimental to local businesses,” said Thomson, adding while shoppers may be saving money, the savings come at a cost to the community.
“Shopping locally sustains jobs and the community. People take local businesses for granted but (if they don’t support local business) the market place will change and things won’t be available anymore.”
Local businesses say a month isn’t really long enough to see an impact from the increased exemption.
Niche markets are where it’s at if local businesses want to keep the door open, said Thomson.
Samara Nicoll, manager of Otter Books in Nelson, said online sales are their biggest competition.
To mitigate that impact, Otter Books specializes in local authors and unusual titles. They are also on Facebook and developing a website for online sales of their own.
Boomtown Sports Emporium in Nelson has really cornered their niche market. The company is known for their manufactured Kootenay Peaksticks, Kootenay Powdersticks and Kootenay Parksticks. Besides ski and snowboard equipment, they also sell bikes and camping gear.
“I’m seeing more American money in my till,” said store manager and bike tech Bryan Rippel.
He doesn’t know why – could be the influx of annual summer tourists, the active marketing the company is doing with American ski hills or their speciality products – but it seems to be working.
Thomson said cross border shopping is only one of many issues local businesses must deal with. The chamber also continues to advocate for a change in the present import duties.
Thomson said import duties put local businesses at an unfair disadvantage right from the start.
“When you can get hockey gear 30 per cent cheaper, it gives someone a reason to go across the border,” said Thomson.
“What I want to see is getting us onto a level playing field (with U.S. retailers).”
Nicoll said the difference between American and Canadian cover prices on books is an issue for them – American tourists will even ask to pay the American cover price.
If the prices were the same it would make it easier on the book selling industry.