The resurgent U.S. dollar and the growing popularity of online shopping is presenting financial strain for bus lines that depend on a steady flow of cross-border shoppers.
Kristine Geary, owner of McCoy Bus Service and Tours, says this year’s Black Friday involved fewer people heading over the border to shop in the United States.
“The shopping tours have actually seen a sharp decline,” notes Geary, who points to the declining value of the Canadian dollar as a problem. Right now the Loonie is worth $0.89 when compared to the U.S. buck — much lower than it was last year or the year before. “The [Canadian] dollar has taken a nosedive so it’s really affected our shopping tours into the U.S.,” Geary said.
It’s a troubling trend for Kingston, Ontario’s McCoy Bus Service and Tours, which was established more than three decades ago. The company has offices in Kingston, Belleville, and Ottawa and regularly takes passengers to destinations in Ontario, Quebec, and the United States. At the moment McCoy is the only charter service licensed to pick up passengers in any part of Ontario.
But McCoy, along with many of their competitors, are facing a new threat as Canadian retailers adopt their own Black Friday sales and begin offering products previously only available in the U.S. The result is clear: last year McCoy took seven buses filled with shoppers to the U.S.; this year, just one bus was required.
“All of a sudden, Canadians are finding that much of what they used to be able to find only in the U.S. they can now access at home just as easily,” notes Ken Wong, a marketing and business professor at Queen’s University. “And, of course, prices, given the exchange rate, fuel, wear and tear on your vehicle, line-ups at the border, not to mention the availability of e-commerce have made shopping in the U.S. a little less attractive.”
But it’s not all doom and gloom for companies like McCoy. Geary says her company is seeing the number of shuttles to Canadian cities, like Ottawa and Toronto, increase as travelers avoid the U.S. Of course, there’s also the possibility that the Canadian dollar will rebound, giving Canadian travelers reason to traverse the border once again.