The U.S. and Canadian governments agreed to close their shared border to non-essential traffic on Wednesday, March 18. While some stores that serve commercial trucks carrying essential goods have remained open, most others have closed.
Barbara Barrett, Executive Director of Canada’s Frontier Duty Free Association confirmed to TMI that CBSA (the Canada Border Services Agency) has allowed the Canadian border stores to stay open and some of those with more commercial traffic are still open.
“It is up to the individual stores whether they are open,” she said.
“Obviously these are unprecedented times. Those stores which are open are doing so for the truckers who are providing essential services and are essential travelers and these operators are taking all necessary precautions to keep everyone safe.
“Those stores which have closed have done so in the interest of public safety. We want to be on the side of keeping Canadians safe and doing the right thing for Canadians.”
She added: “Some stores have no commercial traffic whatsoever, so it does not make sense to leave the lights on.
“We are certainly hoping to see a pent-up demand for travel once we are on the other side of this,” said Barrett.
Here is a listing of Canadian border store closings as of Sunday, March 22.
The Ambassador Bridge (Detroit) and duty free stores are still open 24 hours a day to trade and essential travel, officials announced Thursday. The bridge and stores will continue to monitor the outbreak and will continue to follow local, state and federal guidelines, officials said.
Niagara Duty Free closed as of Wednesday, March 18. “Our time frame [for re-opening] is unknown, as everything is changing on a daily basis,” General Manager Steve Richardson tells TMI. “We had seen a 35% drop in traffic up until now, but it is getting worse every day. No traffic… no sales.”
Windsor –Detroit Tunnel Duty Free Shop – closed: “In an effort to keep our team members healthy and as a result of the unprecedented reduction of traffic with the border closing has forced us to close as of Wednesday evening, March 18,” commented Abe Taqtaq.
Osoyoos & Kingsgate Duty Free Store
The stores are staying open, for now, although the owners have cut back hours and management is helping the limited number of customers that they are seeing.
“We are still servicing commercial trucks that are still considered an essential service to keep the economy from completely collapsing,” says Cam Bissonnette, who reports that sales have been down as much as 80% some days at the Osoyoos Duty Free Store (near border with Washington state) and roughly 50% down at Kingsgate (Idaho border crossing).
“The only fortunate part of this is that we are very seasonal, so it isn’t an overly busy time. We are very hopeful that we can get this contained by the May long weekend… [for now] there are just not any people crossing the border at this time.”
Blue Water Bridge Duty Free (Sarnia Duty Free) is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and says it will continue to provide services to essential travelers.
“We are closely following the recommendations of Health Canada for the safety and well-being of our customers and employees,” says the company Facebook page as of March 20.
Sault Ste. Marie Duty Free is temporarily closed until further notice.
“The health and safety of our shoppers and employees is of paramount importance and we are taking this step to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. We will keep you informed with any new developments. We can all do our part to keep the community healthy and safe. Thank you for your business, loyalty and patience as we work together to keep everyone safe. We look forward to seeing you in the near future!” says the company Facebook page.
The main store is open as of Sunday, March 22, but this could change at any time, Vice President Justin Guay tells TMI.
Peace Arch Duty Free is completely closed and all staff are on leave.
“We have had no traffic for the last week,” reports president Peter Raju.
West Coast Duty Free is open from 9-5 only, serving travelers through window service.