By Emily Hamann
The Bellingham Business Journal
A promotion meant to draw Canadian shoppers to the Bellis Fair Mall appears to be working.
“This morning at the mall it looked like Black Friday,” said Rene Morris, general manager of the mall. Friday is the first day of the four-day “At Par” promotion. At participating retailers in the mall, Canadian and Whatcom County residents can show their IDs at check-out to get a discount based on the current exchange rate, up to 25 percent.
On Friday, shoppers were getting the full 25 percent off. Participating stores have American/Canadian flags in their windows.
It’s a three-day weekend in Canada. Monday is Victoria Day, a federal holiday. The mall plans to hold this promotion during every Canadian holiday weekend for the rest of the year.
Morris said mall retailers have taken a big hit while the Canadian dollar has been down. This promotion is an attempt to entice them back over the border.
“I think it’s a win-win for all of us in Whatcom County,” Morris said. Canadians visiting Bellingham don’t just shop at the mall, she said. They stay in hotels, eat at restaurants and spend money at other stores.
Morris hopes other local stores adopt the promotion, too. She said several guests have asked at the mall’s management office about other companies participating.
“I’m hoping that we can get the whole community behind this,” she said.
Loni Rahm, president and CEO of Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism, has been working to spread the word to Canadian media.
She said news outlets as far away as Toronto have picked up the story.
“This became a little bit larger than any of us predicted,” Rahm said.
For the next promotion, which will be over the July 1 Canada Day weekend, Rahm hopes to convince other business to participate. La Quinta Inn and Four Points by Sheraton already have specials for Canadian guests, and Rahm is hoping other hotels will see the success of this promotion and adopt their own deals.
She said she is excited about the success of the promotion so far, and said that it represents a major commitment on the part of all the participating retailers.
“I think that makes it incredibly inclusive, and profound,” she said. “I’m proud that it’s us doing it.”