SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — With the holidays in Mexico still going until Three Kings Day, many are hopeful a recent money flow will continue for San Ysidro businesses. The San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce says the holiday shopping rush has brought sales back - but not quite to pre-pandemic levels.
In the short time Esmeralda Hernandez has worked at K Shoes in San Ysidro, she can tell things are looking up.
"It’s not like it used to be, but it’s starting to pick up a little bit more," she said. "People started coming and it’s been much better. The lines to cross are huge, but people have been coming. We’ve been having more business."
Businesses along San Ysidro Boulevard have been hurting financially for close to two years since the pandemic forced the border closure. It opened to non-essential travel in November, allowing for the Christmas holiday shopping rush. Although some say it wasn't the best.
"It was so, so," Hernandez said. "Usually by this time, the store is empty and we would be sold out of pairs, we didn’t have any brands or sizes."
But it was still a useful economic boost, bringing sales up to 75-80% of their pre-pandemic levels, according to Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jason Wells.
"Certainly a lot better than it [looked] in October," Wells said.
He adds some businesses are using the holiday boost to pay off debt they've racked up to survive during the pandemic. But, with Three Kings Day in early January being the more official end to the holidays in Mexico, money is still flowing into the business district.
"Numbers are showing right now that it really should be at least a stabilizing factor for businesses through 2022," Wells added.
The chamber has been working on a "comeback plan" which included a hope for strong holiday sales among infrastructure upgrades and an e-commerce pilot program for 100 businesses.
Both he and Hernandez said long lines to cross the border are hurting financial prospects, with Hernandez saying customers tell her they'd rather cross once or twice and buy in bulk to save time. Wells added vaccination requirements also play a role in how many people from Mexico can cross and shop. However, both are hopeful the holiday boost is a sign of a fruitful new year.
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