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Impact of cross-border tourist shopping growing in Central Texas

Posted by Jayme Blaschke
University News Service
February 3, 2009

Pauline Sullivan

Pauline Sullivan

Residents of San Marcos have long known that tourists from Mexico have a significant impact on the local economy through their shopping at the local outlet malls. Now, researchers at Texas State University-San Marcos, in cooperation with Florida State University, have put concrete numbers to that conventional wisdom, and the end results are surprising.

“What this study reveals that prior research on cross-border shopping does not, is that cross-border shoppers are really cross-border tourist shoppers,” said Pauline Sullivan, associate visiting professor in the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences at Texas State. “They come over here and involve themselves in tourism activities, so they’re making a financial impact in many sectors, not just retail.”

“The results of this study indicate that the market for cross-border shoppers is broader than it used to be,” she said. “They’ll travel longer distances, from deeper within Mexico, because they get more benefits from the trip when tourism elements are included.”  

Sullivan found that during the 2009 holiday season, an average travel party of Mexican national cross-border shoppers spent $1,583 (U.S.) daily during their trip to the United States.  There were approximately five people in each travel party. Researchers from Texas State and Florida State tracked the spending of Mexican nationals by interviewing shoppers at the San Marcos outlet malls. The sample was 57.3 percent male and 46.7 percent female, with an average age of 41.

Mexican national cross-border shopper travel parties spent on average $768 for apparel, $140 for lodging, $115 on meals and beverages, $65 at grocery stores, $81 on ground transportation and $368 for other shopping and purchases. Their contribution to the U.S. economy came to approximately $1,568 per trip day, approximately $4,700 per trip and $11,500  annually. About 96 percent of Mexican national cross-border tourist shoppers purchase apparel, and their average daily expenditure is $768.

“This study shows that open borders bring in export dollars,” Sullivan said. “Cross-border shoppers spend their money in the U.S., and that helps reduce the trade deficit. It’s really a positive thing for the economy.”

Cross-border Mexican national shoppers reported that they visit the U.S. slightly more than two times per year to shop. The typical Mexican national cross-border shopper tourist group spent three nights in accommodations during their 2009 holiday season shopping trip.  About 78 percent of the cross-border shoppers reported that they stayed in hotels or motels during this visit to the U.S. 

The majority (85.2 percent) of cross-border shoppers arrived from Mexico by automobile for this shopping trip.  However about nine percent of shoppers from Mexico came by airplane and slightly more than two percent entered the US on a tour bus.  Over half of Mexican National cross-border shopper tourists found information about shopping in the United States from friends and family and via the Internet. 

Mexican nationals cross-border shopping is not particularly associated with near proximity to the border.  Almost 28 percent of Mexican national cross-border shoppers came to the San Marcos outlet malls from Mexico City. 

Sullivan is invited to present results from this study at the International Council of Shopping Centers’ North American Research Advisory Task Force 2009 Winter Meeting in New Orleans, La., Feb. 9.

For more information, contact Pauline Sullivan at (512) 245-4620 or via email at ps48@txstate.edu.