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Tijuana Retail Reaping Profits That Once Flowed To San Diego

May 18, 2017 1:22 p.m.

Tijuana Retail Reaping Profits That Once Flowed To San Diego

GUEST:

Jason Wells, executive director, San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce

Related Story: Tijuana Retail Reaping Profits That Once Flowed To San Diego

Transcript:

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

This is KPBS Midday Edition I am Maureen Cavanaugh. President Trump's stance on immigration is fueling a newfound sense of patriotism among Mexicans. It is reshaping the way consumers spend money in the San Diego Tijuana region. Mexico is reaping profits that used to come to the US. Our reporter Jean Guerrero explains.
Lisbeth Miranda is buying a T-shirt in Tijuana. It has the number 664 emblazoned across the front. 664 is the Tijuana area code. Thousands of other Tijuana residence she used to drive to the US to do close shopping in San Diego. Now she prefers to shop south of the border.
[ speaking in a foreign language ].
I prefer to buy things here to support my country. She says Trump's negative comments about Mexicans have made her want to show off her Mexican pride. She is not alone. I mean Tijuana Avenue used to attract mostly tourists who wanted to have a cheap margarita or by Mexican souvenirs. Now it is crowded with Mexicans who want to shop here as well. The president of Tijuana's Chamber of Commerce says President Trump's immigration rhetoric is offensive. Everything from Trump's descriptions of immigrants as rapists to the claims that they will pay for the new border wall. It's awakened a new sense of patriotism and has been great.
[ speaking in a foreign language ].
Tijuana vendors like this one are starting to offer merchandise specifically toward locals. Another store sells home decorating items showcasing Tijuana pride. Hector works the cash register. He says the store has seen a boom.
There is just nothing for them there.
He said it is because Tijuana is offering better prices. Trump also has something to do with it.
It is definitely like a trending topic with everybody. Everyone knows about Trump and about the wall and everybody cares about it.
Tijuana has in the present -- benefits of the the president's comments about Mexico. The neighborhood of San Ysidro which is when on the north side of the border used to be a magnet for Tijuana shoppers cannot anymore. The Chamber of Commerce has jumped 30 to 50% in the past year.

99% customers Imex -- Mexico based.
He has seen a 50% decrease in sales since Trump was elected.
Olivia is the owner of the shoe store next door. She said rumors tied to the stance on immigration have also encouraged people to stay on this side of the border.
Some people say they are even checking cell phones.
Sales in the store have limited 70% since November. Business in San Ysidro is already down mostly because of the plummeting Mexican peso which was in -- hurting the purchasing power of Tijuana consumers in the US. Industry has since stabilized. Jason Wiles now says that fear and uncertainty are to blame for the struggling economy.
I asked about the wall all of the time. I said you know what a future physical wall is not a problem. It is the current psychological wall that the White House has already built.
The community is trying to advise new strategies to recover lost business in the US. They are offering discounts. For now they will continue to read the prophets.
Joining the is Jason Wiles executive director of the San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce.
Tell us more about how Tijuana and Baja shoppers have typically crashed into the US to make purchases.
Typically you had each family coming across sometimes daily sometimes once a week. There is a large number of workers in the US that live in Tijuana and the Rosarito area. They may be coming every day just buying new things. Ever since the early to mid 2000 when there was the perception of violence due to the war on drugs and so forth. We as a region really lost a lot of the casual tourist for the local tourist. Really with 135 crossing -- thousand crossing today the majority of them are coming three or more times a week. It is either school work relatives what have you.
Those are constant shoppers lower amount and lower purchases.
You saw a little bit of drop off around 2007 2008 that when did you notice this pitfall of starting to occur.
2007 2008 some people decided to start crossing. The next step interestingly enough was not the economy taking in 2008 because it hit Mexico later. Folks were still coming. The next step was 2012 after CBP started hundred % inspections.
That started causing wait times to get over the next two hours.
About a year and a half ago and the peso got 17-1 after years of being 10 inch and 12 inch for a few years. Sought jump up to 22 after the last election.
Are certain businesses hurting more than others.
We still have a thriving industry the cell phone business and so forth obviously the brand name clothing outlets for non-brand-name warehouse clothing. It is ridiculous to change the money anyway.
The court businesses are still doing very well. Got a lot of the markups on the Boulevard that are suffering from this. We have seen I would say the casual shoppers. What we have seen since the last election is just because of the uncertainty of what is going on. Are the checking phones are certain types of visas. Since the election we have seen a huge drop off of some of the smallest of our businesses.
We heard that a couple of those business owners are losing 30 -- up to 70% of their business. How does a small business survive if business drops off.
Unfortunately what we have seen is that they don't. Otherwise just due to the magnitude of crossings that we have the holiday season is still keeping some of. Our last holiday season was just in December. People were still really not understanding what had just happened. This year is going to be very telling. If there really is a surge in patriotism and Mexico that is fueling this is in Tijuana how do they compete.
One of the things we are doing -- San Ysidro had never been set up to serve the residents in our area. Number one it is a very disadvantaged community and because it is very -- fairly new to have the residential area their people remember their grandparents there was not a whole lot of houses around. It's just people my age that is remembering the grandparents house.
I have never really been conditions to serve the resident. Now we've got several housing areas like coral gates Remington Hills and Oceanview Hills that are 600 houses and people that spending abilities and so forth. However we can't change the basis of who we are. We serve a binational region. It is very unfortunate that it is understandable why they were kind of start taken that turn to Dave be in the chambers of commerce and so forth and Mexico the one thing I preached is that the one way that we need to combat this Frederick etc. but people who are ignorant is just to keep living our lives. Keep the in the example of what is great and beautiful and works between our countries.
Whether facts are important or not our lives are. Cannot dispute the economy of the region. Cannot dispute what works between our regions.
We have to keep doing what we are doing. Just saying shop here on one side of the border or another is not who we are.
I have been speaking with the executive director of the Chamber of Commerce Jason Wiles. Thank you.