Photo from Canadian Press
Photo from Canadian Press

(Submitted by Simon Druker and Joanne Abshire) The number of Canadians crossing over the line continues to plummet.

Last month, a little over 900,000 people from BC made their way into Whatcom County in Washington State, the lowest monthly total in more than three years according to new stats from Western Washington University.

That means those potential cross-border shopping dollars are staying here.

Anita Huberman with the Surrey Board of Trade says she’s seeing more people at local shopping centres, and they’re not just Canadians. “We really have an opportunity and need to capture it and market it to the US consumer as to what’s here.”

Huberman says Americans don’t typically come to BC to shop, “but we have certainly seen an increase in American licence plates in our malls, especially in the South Surrey area.”

With the dollar at 78 cents, she’s no longer hearing calls from members asking for a program aimed at keeping Canadians on this side of the border.

Meanwhile in Whatcom County, businesses there are are very aware of the drop in traffic.

Bellingham Chamber of Commerce president Guy Occhiogrosso hasn’t seen the latest numbers but says he doesn’t need to.

“Anybody can do spot checks and many do spot checks for license plate counts. So we do know that we are down. But the interesting part of it is that, as a smaller economy, as a county economy, we are fairly diverse,” says Occhiogrosso.

“The large retail is probably most notable. You’re looking at your Costco, Walmart, big-box stores like that.”

He says they’re not at the point where they’re concerned.

“I don’t know if I would say it’s a concern. It’s definitely something we’re aware of and we’re tracking. This lower Canadian dollar does impact us on a few different levels,” he explains.

“We’re still seeing an influx. I think it just changes the way our Canadian visitors spend their money.”

He says they are confident they will be able to weather the storm until the loonie bounces back.