Early start to holiday shopping season

The holiday shopping season traditionally kicks off Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving sales event that draws bargain hunters to wait in line for early morning deals.

The holiday shopping season traditionally kicks off Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving sales event that draws bargain hunters to wait in line for early morning deals.

But Canadians aren't waiting until next week to start their Christmas shopping in Grand Forks.

Julie Rygg, executive director of the Greater Grand Forks Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the city has seen heavy traffic from Canada for months as visitors flock to Grand Forks.

She said the exchange rate has been "pretty favorable" for Canadians in recent years, a fact that is expected to hold true for the rest of the year. As of Tuesday, the Canadian dollar was equivalent to 98 cents American.

Canadian holiday weekends have been popular traveling times this fall, including last Thursday's Remembrance Day and the Thanksgiving holiday last month, Rygg said.


"It's probably right now a combination of things -- the favorable exchange rate, they've had some holiday weekends and now the holiday shopping season is starting," Rygg said.

Those factors mean the sight of Canadian license plates lining the parking lots of stores, restaurants and hotels is likely to become even more noticeable in the final weeks of 2010.

"Really, they choose to come to Grand Forks for shopping because of the exchange rate, price and selection," Rygg said. "With the Canadian exchange rate as favorable as it is right now, I expect it will be a good shopping season."


More visitors from the state's neighbor to the north have been seen around North Dakota for much of the year. North Dakota tourism officials recently reported that the number of vehicles entering the state from Canada was up 18 percent in July, August and September compared to the same time last year.

Canadian visitors tend to flock to businesses on the south end of Grand Forks, and Rygg said many of the hotels near those retail hotspots already are booked up for the Thanksgiving weekend.

Rickey Ward, Golden Corral's general manager, said the Canadian influx into the city has kept the restaurant busy in recent weeks.

Ward said he's seen big increases in the number of Manitobans stopping by to refuel during a long day of shopping. And the restaurant has seen up to 50 percent increases in the number of customers it gets on Mondays during Canadian holidays, he said.


Ward said the restaurant did as much business on Remembrance Day, a Thursday, as it typically would do on a busy Saturday. With this fall's relatively warm weather and lack of snow, he said traveling is even easier for Canadians this holiday season.

"Going towards Black Friday, we're getting a lot more Canadians," he said.

Sarah Morken, executive team leader at Target, said the store is "definitely busier" now than in the beginning of the holiday shopping season last year. That includes a spike in the number of Canadian shoppers.

"I would say the numbers were strong last year, but even more so this year," she said.

While Canadian traffic tends to be most visible near southern Grand Forks' retail areas, Rygg said the impact of the visitors spreads throughout the city.

"They're not sitting in their hotel rooms, that's for sure," she said.

Rygg said she's even noticed Canadian visitors hitting up the city's hair salons as they prepared for a long weekend of shopping and dining.

"I've been getting my hair done sitting next to two ladies coming in for a girls' weekend, and that wasn't the first time," she said. "I think it does overflow to many other areas that you might not expect."


Reach Johnson at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or send e-mail to .

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