Back in the day, returning home with some solid closet additions you couldn’t find anywhere else was reason enough to make a trip south of the border. With the recent arrival of great retail options in Canada, the increase in popularity of online shopping, and the decline of the Canadian dollar, crossing the border to shop is no longer necessary – completely fun, but not necessary.
It wasn’t too long ago that you needed be on American soil to step inside your nearest Saks Fifth Avenue or Nordstrom location. Of course, both luxury department stores made a long awaited and well-publicized arrival in Toronto in 2016, followed by their ever-popular off-price stores, Saks OFF Fifth and Nordstrom Rack (once major draws of a U.S. shopping trip) shortly after.
Now, the U.S. is no longer the only option for designer loving bargain hunters – especially with the arrival of Black Friday in Canada.
Not only is the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) home these coveted (and much appreciated) new affordable retail additions, we’ve also seen the arrival of shiny new outlet malls – something that was always a lure of Buffalo, New York for GTA residents.
A far cry from the once-tired Dixie Outlet Mall or the designer store-lacking Tanger Outlets in Cookstown, Ontario that the Toronto kids grew up with, the GTA’s outlet malls are now filled with all the luxe options your heart and closet desires.
The sprawling Toronto Premium Outlets features retailers like Gucci, Prada, Burberry, Jimmy Choo and Rudsak.
Opened in 2013, it very recently underwent a 140,000 square-foot expansion to include 40 more designer outlets. The recent expansion even features Aritzia’s first North American outlet. Located just a 40-minute drive from the downtown core, this mall is definitely worth the trip to Halton (trust me).
Further removing the need for a trip across the border, American stores to touch down in Toronto in the past two years include Seattle-based heritage retail brand Filson (694 Queen St. W), Burton Snowboards (98 Ossington), and UNTUCKit (Sherway Gardens), the later of which features Wayne Gretzky as a brand ambassador.
The seemingly perpetual revamp of Yorkdale Shopping Centre has also made it easier for Toronto residents to get their hands on things like Van Cleef & Arpels jewellery, with the arrival of its first Canadian boutique in summer 2017. On the furniture front, the beloved Restoration Hardware opened the first Canadian super-sized flagship concept store in Yorkdale Shopping Centre in fall 2017. The first Canadian freestanding Dyson store – the fourth in North America – now also occupies real estate in the upscale mall.
Some of the world’s largest retail brands are even choosing our home and native land as the first North American standalone locations, bypassing our friends south of the border all together.
On a temporary basis, the rise of the popularity of the pop-up in Toronto has also reduced the need to cross the border to find unique items. For example, iconic U.S. toy brand – and a longtime holiday staple – FAO Schwartz has popped up in Hudson’s Bay stores for the season, removing the need for a pre-Christmas trip to New York City.
Of course, we can’t forget that the mass popularity of online shopping makes a shopping trip to the U.S. increasingly less worth the effort, even when shipping costs are included in the equation.
With a physical trip, there’s the added cost of gas or transportation and accommodation if you plan to stay the night – and if a major shopping spree is what you’re in the market for, you will probably want to stay as long as possible to (legally) increase your duty-free limits – you’ll have to add the hotel or Airbnb stay to the tab, too. You are not entitled to a duty-free allowance on trips less than 24 hours. For longer than 24 hours, your duty-free allowance is $200, a figure that increases to $800 per person for trips longer than 24 hours.
Finally, we need to consider the state of the dollar, which is always a little depressing as of late when it comes to converting Canadian cash into U.S. dollars.
Admittedly, even with the currency conversion, you can still sometimes find better discounts in the U.S. – if you’re willing to put in the effort.
So, is cross-border shopping still worth it for you? Well, if you have a soft spot for Target (the retail giant failed miserably in Canada, as you’ll recall), then maybe. Otherwise, keep your dollars for local finds.
Featured image: Instagram/@nikahv5