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Border Study show shopping habits by Mexicali residents in Imperial Valley

By: Mario Conde

It’s been known for decades that Mexicali shoppers are the economic driving force in the Imperial Valley. Thousands of Mexicali residents cross the border every day to spend their money and support our local economy. Thanks to them, the Valley has grown and many retailers have decided to invest in the Valley.

The County of Imperial hired Michael Baker International and Crossborder Group to do a survey of cross-border travelers from Mexicali to Imperial Valley.

According to the US Bureau of Transportation Statistics, in 2014 there were a total of 18.6 million people traveling northbound into Imperial County through the Calexico West/Mexicali I Port of Entry (POE) and Calexico East/Mexicali II POE. Based on the above, the Calexico West POE had 32,300 average daily northbound person crossings and the Calexico East POE had 18,800 daily border crossers, for a total of 51,100 Calexico/Mexicali daily border crossers. In 2015 the number of Calexico/Mexicali daily border crossers increased to 52,357.

The survey was administered to Mexico-residing northbound travelers (pedestrians, pedestrians with bicycles, and passenger vehicles using SENTRI, Ready Lane, and regular lanes) at two border crossing locations: Calexico West/Mexicali I, and Calexico East/Mexicali II.

The first wave of surveys took place on five consecutive days from Thursday, November 17, 2016, to Monday, November 22, 2016. The second wave of surveys took place on five consecutive days from Friday, December 9, 2016, to Tuesday, December 13, 2016.

The overall goal of this travel behavior survey of cross-border travelers from Mexicali to Imperial Valley is to quantify the impact and benefits of northbound border crossers on Imperial County’s retail and workforce to assist in positioning Imperial County as a prime location for investment.

“Some investors may not be interested to invest in Imperial Valley if we tell them that we only have 180,000 in population. This report will demonstrate the economic impact we receive from Mexicali’s resident and their shopping behavior,” said Esperanza Colio-Warren, Imperial County Director of Community and Economic Development. The study was funded thanks to a grant given by the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

Nearly 70 percent of respondents visit the United States at least once a week and nearly 60 percent of respondents shop in retail stores in the Imperial Valley at least once a week. Better quality and more variety of products were the top reasons for shopping in the Imperial Valley.

Respondents crossing the border with a purpose other than shopping planned to spend less on that visit to the United States than respondents crossing the border with the purpose of shopping. However, of those who estimated they would spend over $200 during that visit, the purpose of the trip was irrelevant. In addition, the average amount of expected spending for that visit did not differ very much between the two groups ($150 for ‘shopping’ versus $135 for ‘other’).

Types of purchase include clothing (67%) and food (45%) were the most common types of purchases, by a wide margin, followed by footwear (16%) and electronics (12%). Toys and gasoline (8%) tied for fifth and sixth while cosmetics/perfume/toiletries and pet food tied for seventh and eighth (5%). Household items/cleaning supplies (4%) was the ninth most common type of purchase.

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