Sunday, August 05, 2007

Lifelong member of “It’s better in the US”

Note: This is another guest post courtesy of my co-worker, Linda.

I’ve always been a cross-border shopper–when you grow up less than 30 minutes away from the border, it’s a natural rite of passage. I’ve lived the days of our dollar actually being worth more than the US buck, and survived the days it fell down to almost 60¢. High or low, I haven’t been deterred–there’s just something about a US shopping trip.

At this stage of my life, it’s a mindset more than anything. When I try to shop in Toronto, I’m always on the clock–it’s almost always rushed. Get home to feed the family, pick up or drop off kids, etc. When you know you only have so much time, you just don’t have the same amount of patience. My trips over the border are usually more relaxed–leave the kids at home with their grandparents and come home when I decide I’ve had enough. Things have changed a bit the past year or so though–my 14-year-old daughter has caught the shopping bug (finally!) and my trips over the Niagara River are rarely solo anymore.

The biggest problem I have with Canadian retail is our department stores–they are just nothing compared to the US equivalents. While Holts may be the exception, it’s not a store I can afford. The variety of shoes you can find in a US department store, usually on sale, is incredible. Unlike most Winners, the brand name discount stores (TJ Maxx, Marshalls, etc.) actually have brand name, designer items (only certain geographic locations have high-end stock when it comes to Winners). If you’re looking for a suit, they often have racks of designer names for $100 or less.

Grocery stores are something else that amaze me–step into Wegmans flagship store in the suburbs of Rochester, NY and you won’t know where to begin–it’s like nothing you've ever seen (you can always spot the Canadian visitors–they’re the ones “oohing” and “aahing” every minute or so). It’s not just the variety of foods and food products, it’s the design itself–warm and bustling, not like the warehouse style superstores we have in Canada. For people with food allergies, the choices are ten times what they are in Canada (maybe excluding specialty stores).

Like I said though, I know some of it is a mindset–I just seem to have more time to shop in the US. Since this blog is about bargains, I’ll leave you with my latest and greatest find–I bought a pair of Prada black flats in TJ Maxx last weekend for $80. The MSRP was $600, they started at TJ’s for $230–after a couple of markdowns, I now own a pair of Pradas!

Do you agree with Linda? Is shopping really better south of the border or do you prefer shopping in Canada?

Technorati tags: cross-border shopping, Prada, TJ Maxx, Wegmans, Winners


  1. I think there are good deals to be found in Canada, but when it comes to the selection and overall retail experience generally the U.S. is much better than Canada.

    Regarding pricing, CBC ran an interesting interactive feature (good use of the web medium) that compares prices of several identical items in Canada and the U.S. I never was a fan of cross-border shopping until the loonie’s recent stellar performance, but I thought with the strong dollar everything would be much cheaper – but surprisingly many things were exactly equal (Tide, HDTVs) or close. Surprisingly there were only a couple really good deals and those didn’t factor in duties, gas and travel costs to get it, etc.

    So other than selection, I'm not convinced the U.S. consistently tops Canada for shopping.

  2. Forgot the link to the CBC cross border shopping feature:

  3. I agree with Linda...I much prefer the US shopping experience and always come home with a bargin.

    Before I go, I make a "wish list" which includes checking the cost in Canadian dollars.

    *Visit Macy's Customer Service desk for a US Visitor Savings Card (available to non US residents). It provides an additional 11% discount on regular and sale items. I purchased a pair of Lacoste flats for $70 - Brown's was selling the same pair for $150.

    *Earlier this week the Toronto Star ran an article on the increase in cross border shopping:


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