Cross-border shopping typically is omitted from the current dialogue about the U.S. border with Mexico. Maybe that´s because the people doing the talking aren´t communicating with retailers along the U.S.-Mexico border. Thar´s green in them thar border towns, according to two researchers from the University of Texas-Pan American.
"Mexican visitors constitute an important component in the economy of communities along the U.S.-Mexico border," wrote Suad Ghaddar and Cynthia J. Brown in a paper published late last year. "These visitors enter the U.S. regularly for shopping, tourism, work and socialization with family and friends. In the process, a considerable amount of money is spent on a multitude of items (groceries, clothing, appliances, furniture, etc.) and services (hotels, restaurants, medical facilities, etc.)."
The results of several studies in the border states of Arizona, California and Texas revealed a substantial overall impact in the range of $8 billion to $9 billion dollars along the U.S.-Mexico border, according to Ghaddar, a research associate, and Brown, director, at the Center for Border Economic Studies at the university.
"The majority of Mexican visitors to the United States," the authors wrote, "arrive for the purpose of shopping. To cater to this need, malls, shopping plazas and downtown retail areas in border communities have emerged and, in some cases, exist and thrive merely because of Mexican shoppers."
Border tourist attractions such as South Padre Island in Texas attribute more than half of their activity to Mexican visitors during certain seasons, the paper pointed out. And in South San Diego County, Baja Californians account for 10 percent to 69 percent of the retail sales of area businesses.
Profiles of Mexican visitors highlighted in the Ghaddar-Brown paper showed that 72 percent visit Arizona to shop, 42 percent to 68 percent go to California for the same reason and 85 percent venture into Texas for retail therapy.
Clothing accounts for more than 40 percent of total expenditures, the authors discovered. Groceries and dining out counts for 20 percent to 35 percent of money spent. In Texas, Mexican visitors also spend a fair amount, around 8 percent, on lodging.
Who are the shoppers from south of the border? They are people who exhibit a high level of brand loyalty, according to Ghaddar and Brown. And they are both price and quality conscious. They have particularly favorable views of U.S. products in terms of technological advancement, price competitiveness, high quality and variety of choices.
The economic impact of Mexican nationals who cross into the United States through southern land ports of entry make a "significant contribution" to local economies, the researchers concluded.
Expenditures of Mexicans shopping in southern border towns generate, the authors said, $1.2 billion in business taxes and $3.6 billion in labor income.