Shoppers from Mexico boost holiday sales for U.S. retailers

CANUTILO, Texas - Shoppers from Mexico are making the season bright for U.S. retailers this season. The crowds at malls are growing on the border as the number of shopping days dwindles.

The prices are at least "50 percent off," said Dr. Alan Arrizo, of Chihuahua. The doctor was browsing at the Outlet Shoppes at El Paso with his wife and two young daughters, Alejandra and Fernanda.

Fernanda carried a few dollars in a small Mickey Mouse purse.

The family stopped on their way home from a trip to Disneyland to do some Christmas shopping near El Paso.

Arrizo expected the family to spend about $2,000 on Christmas shopping in Texas before heading home.

The selection and big savings attract Christmas shoppers from Mexico.

"We pay for meals. We pay for everything and we spend less than Mexico. Can you believe it?" asked Hilda Moreno smiling. She planned to increase her savings by using store coupons.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas estimates "Mexicans spend more than $4.5 billion annually on food, clothing, auto parts and other retail items in the border cities, primarily El Paso, McAllen, Brownsville and Laredo.

In Laredo, shoppers from Mexico account for as much as 45 percent of retails sales.

Shoppers from Mexico spend an estimated $2 billion in Arizona with at least half of that cash spent in Pima County.

This time of year by law many employers in Mexico must give year end bonus or "aguinaldo" which families usually spend on Christmas presents.

Texas cities that are not on the boarder also benefit, according to a study by Texas State University - San Marcos. The researchers surveyed Mexican shoppers at two outlet malls in central Texas.

"Holiday shoppers from Mexico visiting outlet stores here spent roughly twice as much as their American counterparts visiting from outside the San Antonio and Austin areas," according to the study titled "Mexican National Cross-Border Shopping: Exploration of Retail Tourism." The study was published in the Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services. 

Houston has major retailers have long promoted shopping trips during the holiday season. Some packages include airfare, hotel accommodations at or near major malls like the Galeria.

On the border, many shoppers drive to their favorite malls to take advantage of bargains.

Mari Mercado, of Juarez, used coupons to buy several trendy sweatshirts including one lined with faux fur.

"If you spend $100, they give you a $25 discount, "said Mercado.

Her friend Sandra Holguin drove about five hours from the town of Delicias to take advantage of the bargains. "In Chihuahua it's very expensive, almost triple what it is here," said Holguin.

As Christmas carols played over the outlet mall speakers, the two women stuffed their van with bags of gifts like Santa Clause loading his sleigh.

"It's worth it," said Mercado, before she drove off headed for Mexico. 

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