By Oliver Lazenby
CHS Northwest announced on Monday that it will close its Blaine Ace hardware store by the end of the month; a liquidation sale is already underway.
In a press release, CHS Northwest general manager Don Eucker attributed CHS’s decision to a lack of Canadian shoppers.
“We are saddened to be closing our Blaine location. With the drop-off in Canadian traffic, we are no longer able to financially maintain the Blaine store,” he said.
All 12 employees have been offered jobs elsewhere with CHS Northwest, which has six other Whatcom County locations, store manager Ray Maxon said. Maxon is the president of the Blaine Chamber of Commerce.
The Blaine store, which opened in July 2012, has proved more susceptible to shifts in the Canadian dollar than other CHS Northwest locations, including Lynden and Ferndale, said Phil Hutton, retail division manager for CHS Northwest.
The drop in Canadian shoppers started a couple of years ago when a drop in the Canadian dollar led to a decline in traffic across the border, data from Western Washington University’s Border Policy Research Institute shows.
The Canadian dollar recently climbed to 80 cents compared to the U.S. dollar, from a low of about 73 cents in May. But that increase didn’t help the Blaine store, Hutton said.
Laurie Trautman, director of the Border Policy Research Institute, doesn’t think the 7-cent increase is enough to lure Canadian shoppers into the U.S. The Canadian dollar was worth more than the U.S. dollar as recently as early 2013.
“It’s not a huge movement,” she said. “It’s still fairly low and people take a little while to respond to those exchange rate movements.”
Based on anecdotal evidence from cross-border conferences, Trautman thinks American politics may also be keeping would-be visitors to Whatcom County at home in Canada.
“I haven’t done real research on this, but the general political climate is kind of a turnoff and I think people might be avoiding coming down,” she said.
The Ace storefront could soon be one of seven vacancies in the International Plaza – the mall that also includes Cost Cutter. The property’s leasing agent didn’t return calls about the property.
The store is selling much of its inventory for 50 percent off and some shelves are already bare.
Maxon said he thinks a hardware store isn’t a bad business for that location.
“I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of an independent owner reopening Ace in the future,” he said.