Survey finds Grand Forks still popular with Canadians despite currency exchange flux
Every time they visit Grand Forks, Wendy Hegg and Jennifer Owens, two close friends from Winnipeg, said they bring around $800 to $1,000 worth of stuff back home.
“Lots of things in Canada are more expensive,” said Hegg.
Plus, Owens said, “It’s a quick drive.”
For more than 20 years, they have been coming here, mostly to shop, at least three times a year, they said.
The pair is among thousands of Canadians who visit Grand Forks every year to shop, and according to a recent survey, the trend shows no sign of letting up. A majority of visitors told the Greater Grand Forks Convention and Visitors Bureau they come more than three times a year spending more than $500 each time.
Though the exchange rate fluctuates, CVB Executive Director Julie Rygg said she believes Canadians will keep coming.
At the end of Monday, a Canadian dollar gets 0.92 U.S. dollar, less favorable to Canadians than a few years ago. Between late 2010 and early 2013, a Canadian dollar was often equal to a U.S. dollar or worth more, peaking at 1.06 U.S. dollars.
According to the CVB, by far the top reason for coming to Grand Forks was to shop, followed by those seeking a weekend getaway.
The top three factors in their decision to shop here are lower prices, better selection and hotel rates. Less important were the exchange rate, gas prices, entertainment options and other factors.
“We look for stuff that we can’t find in Winnipeg,” said Faith Putasnick from Winnipeg. “We have a Target now in Winnipeg and we’ve been in there a few times but it feels very sterile, it doesn’t feel as comfortable as this store.”
On Monday, she was shopping at the Grand Forks Target.
Jennifer Nguyen from Winnipeg said coming to Grand Forks to shop is a big deal. “I make a list. I come here to go Christmas shopping and buy clothing. I buy my pet food here even. It’s a lot cheaper.”
The most popular items among Canadians surveyed were women’s apparel, groceries and men’s apparel.
Lower prices mean Canadians spend more when they’re here. Among those surveyed, 58 percent spent more than $500 when they are in Grand Forks and 56 percent said they visited three or more times a year.
Asked if the recent change in exchange rate affected their travel to Grand Forks, 59 percent said it didn’t, 29 percent said they visit less often and 10 percent said they kept their stays shorter.
Staying in GF
While Fargo and larger cities might seem to offer more shopping opportunities, most stay in Grand Forks.
“They might go to Fargo and come back and stay here but the majority of them stay and shop here,” said Rygg. “We want Grand Forks to continue to be a good place for them to visit.”
Among Canadians surveyed, 65 percent said they stay in Grand Forks, while 30 percent said they would go to other places. The rest didn’t answer.
“Grand Forks is a very leisure market and our biggest leisure market is our folks from Canada,” said Kevin Robson, the general manager of the Canad Inn in Grand Forks. “Absolutely, we benefit dramatically from Canadian travel.”
“We always say we’re going on an adventure when we’re heading to Grand Forks,” said Janette Cherlet with a giggle, “It’s got everything we need.”
On the Web: To see the survey, go to bit.ly/StkZva.