(09/26/12) - A recent change to duty-free allowances is sending more Canadians across the border in search of a bargain.
The changes mean our friends from Canada can bring home more merchandise, tax-free.
General manager at Birch Run Premium Outlets, Phil Whitsel, says it's never been hard to spot Ontario license plates there on weekends. But now, you can easily find them on weekdays too.
That's due to several factors.
Whitsel says the designer names and discounted prices have always attracted customers who don't mind driving for several hours. That's part of the mall's marketing pitch to Canadian shoppers.
And while there are no firm figures yet, a recent change to duty-free regulations hasn't hurt either.
Back on June 1, the dollar amount of merchandise Canadians can take home tax-free through customs doubled, and in some cases quadrupled.
It all depends on how long they stay in the U.S. One day of shopping is not tax-free, but an overnight trip gets you a tax break.
If they're only making a day trip, taxes still apply at the border. But an overnight trip qualifies them to bring home $200 worth of goods, tax free.
Previously, they had to pay taxes on any amount more than $50.
For a stay more than two-days, that tax free allowance goes up to $800 from $400.
Whitsel says when they shop and stay, they make it worth their while.
"They're going to be here to spend a day, and they're going to visit as many stores as they can," he said. "It's not only great for the shopping center here, but it's great for the region, because they're eating in restaurants, they're staying in hotels in the area and it's really great for our local economy."
When Richard and Karen Sheridan shop, it's all business.
"We just drove around it, last night, and picked out where we were going to target," Karen said.
The Sheridans drove five hours from Ontario, just to shop in Birch Run.
"We've been told about this particular mall," Karen said.
And while the Canadian and American dollars are about even right now, there's something else drawing Canadians across the border.
"Prices are better here, and we can bring back more," Karen said.
The changes are good news for stores and hotels.
"It's over half of our, of people who do come in," said Heidi Smith of Best Western Birch Run Frankenmuth.
Smith says some nights, all you'll find in the parking lot at the Best Western is "Ontario, Ontario, Ontario, everywhere."
"They're all very friendly, and we just love their business," Smith said.
The Sheridans say their first visit is off to a good start.
"My husband loves Under Armour, so that was our first stop and we've been in there for hours," Karen said.
And while you'll find Canadians shopping here just about any day of the week, the mall is especially busy on Canadian holidays.
The next one is a little more than a week away.
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