California border businesses affected by COVID-19 pandemic still waiting for rebound in sales

Coronavirus

Merchants say shoppers haven't returned despite 'reopening' of border

SAN DIEGO (Border Report) — Jason Wells said this year’s Thanksgiving was special as it was “giving us our lives back.”

In an editorial in the San Diego Union-Tribune, the executive director of the San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce said he expects San Ysidro to “come roaring back with (the) lifting of border restrictions” that were put in place at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Wells said the past 20 months have been trying as his members lost 276 businesses, 2,200 jobs and $1.3 billion in sales.

But Wells’ wish for a quick economic rebound has not materialized if you believe shopkeepers who work along San Ysidro Boulevard or at an outlet mall on the west side of the San Ysidro Port of Entry.

The owner of Lee’s Fashions, which sells both men’s and women’s attire, did not want their name used but said they really haven’t seen increased sales since the restrictions were lifted.

Others, including the operator of the indoor Tianguis Swap Meet, said she doesn’t expect sales to pick up until the economic situation improves south of the border.

She said many of their customers lost their jobs and/or income during the pandemic and don’t have the disposable income to cross the border to go shopping.

At Carolin Shoes, one of the salespeople said they are seeing a bit more people coming back from Mexico, but “they are not buying as much as they used to.”

The owner of a luggage store at Las American Outlet Mall, which sits next to Ped West, a pedestrian crossing on the west side of the San Ysidro Port of Entry that remains closed, said until the facility reopens, they are not going to see as many customers walking up to their stores.

He also said the weak peso is not helping matters.

When the pandemic began, the peso was trading at about 19 per $1. Now it’s at 21 per dollar, meaning people from south of the border have less buying power than they did two years ago when restrictions were put in place.

Wells, who did not make himself available to speak to Border Report, wrote in his editorial that “San Ysidro has been impacted like no other community in the county and is going to require assistance like no other to recuperate — the definition of social equity.”

“Our plan includes a yearlong business assistance program to diversify San Ysidro businesses into e-commerce and infrastructure plans that will unify the two sides of our commercial corridor, improve our environment and greatly improve the welcome we give to visitors,” he wrote.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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The mission of BorderReport.com is to provide real-time delivery of the untold local stories about people living, working and migrating along the U.S. border with Mexico. The information is gathered by experienced and trusted Nexstar Media Group journalists hired specifically to cover the border.