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Canadian shoppers needed in Niagara County

Businesses hope border will reopen before the holiday shopping season is over
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Posted at 6:22 PM, Oct 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-06 18:53:53-04

TOWN OF NIAGARA, N.Y. (WKBW-TV) — Monday, October 12 is Thanksgiving in Canada.

That would normally mean a wave of Canadian shoppers traveling into Niagara County to visit the Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls USA and many other businesses along the Military Road shopping/restaurant corridor in the Town of Niagara.

The Canadian Thanksgiving holiday starts several weeks of holiday shopping events that include Halloween, Thanksgiving in the U.S., "Black Friday," and Christmas.

With the border still closed to non-essential traffic, those Canadian shoppers will not be coming this year.

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"Amongst the Fashion Outlets and all the chain restaurants, there are a lot of mom-and-pop stores, and a lot of little restaurants, that are going to suffer," said Kory Schuler, executive director of the Niagara USA Chamber of Commerce.

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The Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls USA parking lot, which would normally have many cars with Canadian license plates, is expected to be sparsely used during the upcoming, long Canadian Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Thanksgiving in Canada is Monday, October 12.

The chamber estimates that Niagara County is losing millions of dollars in sales tax revenue. That will force municipal governments in Niagara County to look at job and service cuts or the prospect of raising taxes.

"The ironic thing is most of the taxpayers are also people who've had negative effects due to COVID," added Schuler.

John Percy, president & CEO of Destination Niagara USA, told reporter Ed Reilly that there is no indication when the border will reopen. Percy said he would not be surprised to see it remain closed until the end of the year.

That is a huge concern for businesses located around the Fashion Outlets. They worry no Canadian shoppers during the holiday shopping season will force many businesses to close permanently.

"We do a tremendous amount of business on the Canadian holidays and that is gone," said Denise LaMarca.

LaMarca owns "Auntie's Attic Quilt Shop" in a plaza directly across from the Fashion Outlets. One-third of her customers came from Canada. Without them, LaMarca has seen her small-business income drop nearly 40%.

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While she is shipping some of her products over the border, the volume is nowhere near what it was when Canadians came in-person to her store.

"It has been difficult to keep things positive knowing that we are not going to get them anymore (Canadian Shoppers)," commented LaMarca.

Since NYS has done a good job of controlling the spread of COVID-19, Kory Schuler is hoping federal officials can work out something with the Canadian government before the important holiday shopping season is over.

Denise LaMarca wants officials to use creative thinking about testing at the border, or possibly opening the border for just a few days at a time to see how it goes, because any Canadian business is better than none at all.

"I am really worried about the holidays coming and people not being able to shop here," said LaMarca.