A study by Statistics Canada estimates Canadians spent about $8 billion Cdn in cross-border shopping in 2012, up from $4.7 billion in 2006.
In 2006, the Canadian dollar fluctuated between 85 and 90 cents US; in 2012, it went from 99 cents US to $1.03 US.
That change in the value of the loonie made retail goods in the U.S. less expensive in 2012 than at any point in the previous six years.
56 million visits
About three-quarters of Canadians live within 160 kilometres of a border crossing and take advantage of shopping opportunities in the U.S. with single-day and overnight trips.
In 2012, Canadians made almost 56 million visits to the U.S., up 38 per cent from 2006.
Gasoline and groceries, which are traditionally lower priced in the U.S., were among the most purchased items, according to Statistics Canada.
The amount Canadians spent rose annually, except in 2009 at the height of the financial crisis, when consumer confidence was low and both Canadian and U.S. retail sales plunged.
U.S. retail goods brought into Canada by courier or post also jumped in that six-year period — by 50 per cent to $3.1 billion in 2012. That reflects the widespread adoption of online shopping among Canadians.
Different pricing and selection in the U.S. and changes in the retail landscape at home may also be affecting the cross-border shopping trend.
Statistics Canada said cross-border shopping accounted for 1.7 per cent of total Canadian retail sales in 2012.
It did not give an estimate for 2014 — with the Canadian dollar falling to the 90-cent US range.
Retail Council calls for end to 'price gap'
That big increase in cross-border shopping worries the Retail Council of Canada.
In a reaction to the study today, it said “Canada needs to implement changes to address the Canada/U.S. price gap.”
The Harper government has promised to close the price gap by addressing “country pricing,” a policy by vendors and retailers that results in prices being higher in Canada than the U.S.
“Retail Council of Canada has called on the government of Canada to finalize its commitment to level the playing field by eliminating outdated tariffs, harmonize regulations and address supplier pricing strategies," the council said in a statement.