MCALLEN, Texas - What would you do for a good bargain this holiday season?
One Mexican family drove 160 miles to the United States just for Black Friday deals. These trips, however, are becoming less common. The Texas economy could be losing out on millions of dollars.
For the last nine years, Leticia Villafuerte has been perfecting her strategy to beat other shoppers to the best Black Friday deals at the store.
She and her family packed pillows, chairs and blankets to camp out before driving 160 miles from Monterrey, Mexico to be the first in line at a Best Buy store in McAllen, Texas.
Villafuerte said it’s still scary to travel with the looming threat of cartel violence on the highway. Even so, the deals are worth it, she said.
McAllen mayor Jim Darling said not as many Mexican shoppers like the Villafuerte family are coming here like they used to.
Darling believes the drug war, the weakened Mexican peso, and to some extent, the anti-immigration rhetoric of the last year have hurt his border town.
“Our duty is to try to keep the connection going even though they may not be coming because of the danger," he said.
According to the latest numbers by the Texas comptroller, McAllen, the 25th largest city in the state, ranks 16th in sales tax revenue. The city took a three percent hit compared to last year, despite population growth.
“We’ve historically been the largest sales-tax collector per capita in the state, by far,” said Darling. “I checked one time, and we’re 12 times higher than the average in the United States per capita shoppers. A lot has to do with Mexico.”
One of the city’s main sales tax contributors is Simon’s ‘La Plaza’ mall, where some retail companies claim to have their flagship store. The mall recently expanded to offer more products not found in Mexico.
“About 40 percent of our shoppers come from Mexico,” said La Plaza Marketing Director Isabel Saenz.
With more name-brand stores popping up in Mexico, and the adoption of the Mexican Black Friday known as ‘Buen Fin,' businesses and local governments along the Texas border are making larger investments to compete.
This is the first time Villafuerte and her 83-year-old mother Consuelo make it to the front of line; evidence that there seems to be less competition at Black Friday participating stores in McAllen.
"They no longer have to fight tooth-and-nail to get their hands on this year’s hottest items," said Villafuerte.
As long as the sales continue to beat those in Mexico, the Villafuerte family may be spotted camping outside a retail store again next year.