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Peace Arch Duty Free Shop reopens with ‘skeleton staff’

Store has lost about $2 million due to 17-month closure, says president Peter Raju
Peace Arch Duty Free Shop has reopened this month after being closed since March 2020. (File photo)

After being closed for nearly a year and a half, the Peace Arch Duty Free Shop has reopened.

The business, located at the Peace Arch (Douglas) border crossing, originally closed in March 2020 when the Canada/U.S. border closed to non-essential traffic at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and reopened Aug. 12 when Canada began allowing U.S visitors to come north once again.

In a recently released news release, Peace Arch Duty Free Shop president Peter Raju said they are excited to welcome U.S. customers, but are currently operating with a “skeleton staff” while taking a wait-and-see approach to staffing levels as they await news about when Canadians can cross into the States – a move that would increase traffic to the business.

The United States government has yet to allow travellers to cross into the U.S. at land borders, and the earliest that can change is Aug. 21.

Raju told Peace Arch News that the company has lost a “substantial” amount of money – about $2 million – as a result of the months-long closure. Raju said nearly $1 million of that is from rent that they’ve had to continue paying despite being closed, while the lion’s share of the rest was a result of spoiled inventory.

“The major cost was the inventory write-off. We had to write off all our cigarettes, beer, confectionery, cosmetics, as well as liqueurs. That was almost a million dollars in inventory,” he said.

There were also some costs associated with paying out employees who had to be laid off, Raju noted. Normally, the duty-free shop employs 35 people, he said.

For now, only a handful of “key senior people have been asked to come back,” he said.

“We’ll continue to monitor the situation. It’s been very positive so far – we’ve seen an increase in traffic on a daily basis since we reopened,” he continued.

“It’s all Americans right now, so we’ll keep maintaining what we’re doing and see if things improve.”

All Peace Arch Duty Free Shop employees are required to be fully vaccinated and follow all health-and-safety measures.

Inventory write-offs and major revenue losses during the pandemic were also a problem for West Coast Duty Free, which is located just east of the Peace Arch Duty Free Shop at the Pacific Highway truck crossing.

West Coast was one of just two duty-free stores in B.C. to remain open during the pandemic, but in June told PAN that revenue was down “in excess of 97 per cent.

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