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Kootenay dollars drained down south
This editorial is to express thanks and gratitude to what seems to be an ever-dwindling group within our community.
Sometimes, it is difficult to imagine the B.C./US border, (Washington or Idaho) as anything other than a bathtub drain—at least when someone has just told you about their great cross-border shopping spree.
Hundreds of thousands of vehicles cross the border in our region every year, with many of them heading south of the 49th parallel to seek out the best deals possible on everything from new TVs to cheese. This, from a purely personal economic viewpoint, is understandable. The price difference, especially with the Canadian dollar sitting at near parity, can be phenomenal. A recent study by the Business Council of BC found that the price difference in cheese, for example, is up to 60 per cent cheaper in the U.S.
That same study found that in 2012 as much as $2.6 billion from the province was spent in cross-border shopping.
People who cross-border shop will point out that you can’t argue the economics of it. Face it, if you have ever spent a day shopping across the border and then spent time in the stores here, you could be hospitalized from an extreme case of sticker shock.
Yes, for many, times could be considered tough at the moment. Some area storefronts are empty. Some people don’t have jobs and yet, the people who routinely take their money across the border don’t seem to be able to relate their actions to the local economy.
Well, here it is, in a nutshell. Money that stays in your community tends to have a multiplier effect. You spend $5 at a local merchant, that merchant uses that $5 at another merchant and so on, generating much more value with each transaction. Taking your money out of the community does just that—it removes the money from the community. Gone. Just like that, the cash that could have been spent in Cranbrook is now in the hands of a U.S. merchant who is unlikely to come back to Cranbrook to spend it.
This editorial, however, is not to berate those who shop across the border occasionally. Sometimes driving a couple of hours to be a tourist in a different country is fun. It isn’t even to berate (overly) those who fill their cars with U.S. goods all the time. There is no point in that because the statistics and closed storefronts are out there for everyone to see. The people crossing the border continually to shop aren’t thinking about the community but instead are thinking only of themselves.
This article was written for those who have given the cross-border shopping situation some thought. It is for those with empathy who have neighbours that are trying their best to maintain their own business. It is for those who see that forcing local merchants to lower their prices below cost hurts the economy of the region. It is for those who know that even the large chain stores need to make a profit to keep people employed. Finally, it is for those who choose to live here and want to see their children stay in a happy, prosperous community.
To those people, congratulations on being a thoughtful, community-minded driver of the local economy. You know that it costs a little more at the moment to spend within your community, but you also know the cost, in the long run, of spending south of the border. Kudos.