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West Coast Duty Free says revenue down 97% in COVID-19 pandemic

Last Updated Jun 16, 2021 at 1:39 pm PDT

West Coast Duty Free (Source: Google Maps)

Duty free shop on Canadian side of Pacific Highway border crossing has seen a near-100 per cent drop in business

Stock of perishable items must be donated or destroyed

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Businesses dependent on cross-border travel are keeping a close eye on any news of the Canada-U.S. border re-opening again. One duty free shop has seen revenue plummet to nearly nothing since the COVID-19 pandemic led to a clamp-down on international travel.

“We are down in excess of 97 per cent,” said Gary Holowaychuk, owner of West Coast Duty Free, which is on the Canadian side of the Pacific Highway crossing.

His store has been closed to in-store shopping since March 16, 2020 and has since been operating a window service for truckers leaving Canada.

“U.S. Customs does not allow them to use the washrooms over there because they’re worried about security. So, we stayed open to keep our washrooms open,” he explained.

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Holowaychuk says he has a warehouse full of stock, much of it perishable.

“We have European Cadburys. We have Godiva chocolates. That kind of stuff. We bring it in fresh so it has a long expiry date, but nobody expected a year and a half,” he said, noting he will likely donate those items.

“Canada Customs has given us a bit of a leeway, where we can pay duty on our product and then give it to the food banks and the women’s shelters and all that kind of stuff,” he said.

He says that adds an extra 10 to 15 per cent to his costs, but “I just couldn’t bring it in myself to destroy skidloads and skidloads of perfectly good product.”

We are expecting details on the status of the Canada-U.S. border soon. The current closure to non-essential travel expires on June 21 and has been extended on a monthly basis.