Back-to-school shoppers ready for tax free weekend

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 1, 2012

By Sarah Campbell
SALISBURY — Rachel Smith stopped by Creative Teaching Aids to scope out supplies for her classroom Tuesday afternoon.
Although it didn’t take long for the first year teacher to find several items that caught her eye, she avoided the temptations to purchase them right then and there.
Smith, who will teach third grade at Landis Elementary School, said she’s holding off until at least Friday when the 10th annual sales tax holiday gets under way.
“I figure I might as well take advantage of it,” she said.
Not only is Smith a new teacher, she’s also new to the concept of shopping during tax free weekend.
That’s why she’s planning early, picking out owl border to decorate her bulletin board and finding a suitable calendar.
“I’ve never really thought about it before, but my mom told me about it so I decided to try it out,” she said.
Smith will join hoards of shoppers this weekend as they flock to stores to save 7 cents off every dollar spent.
The statewide sales tax holiday runs from 12:01 a.m. Friday to 11:59 p.m. Sunday.
Clothing, including everything from aprons to lab coats, sports equipment like ballet shoes and cleats, computers and school supplies are included in the list of items that are eligible for the tax exemption. A complete list of tax free items is available online at
During the three-day period, the North Carolina Department of Revenue estimates the state will lose about $13.6 million in sales tax revenue.
Joy King, co-owner of Creative Teaching Aids, said the entire store will be sans tax, which means she needs all hands on deck.
“We are usually very busy during tax free weekend, so most of our employees will be working this weekend,” she said. “We are stocked and ready to go with lots of back to school supplies for students and teachers.”
The store, like many other downtown businesses, will extend its hours Friday in conjunction with both the sales tax holiday and Downtown Salisbury Inc.’s Summer Night Out.
King said the majority of her customer are teachers looking for items to decorate their classrooms, but that doesn’t mean others don’t stop in.
“We have parents and grandparents who come in during tax free weekend to buy educational games and toys as Christmas and birthday gifts,” she said. “I think a lot of people take advantage of the savings and think ahead.”
Darrell Jackson, owner of Lee Clothing Warehouse in Kannapolis and Concord, said a lot of prep work goes into tax free weekend at his stores, which sell a variety of school uniforms.
“We work seven months to get prepared for it,” he said. “We go to New York and book all the merchandise that we project we’re going to sell.”
Jackson said the sales tax holiday provides a huge boost for his stores.
“It’s like Black Friday for us,” he said. “People take advantage of that 7 percent discount because you don’t see school uniforms discounted very often.”
Another trend Jackson’s noticed throughout the past couple of years is churches and civic organizations pulling their money to buy uniforms for needy children during the weekend.
The amount of staff on hand at Lee Clothing Warehouse will double throughout the weekend.
Jackson said he’s confident sales during the three-day holiday will surpass last year’s totals.
“We are very optimistic,” he said. “One of the reasons for that is because a lot of major chains have cut their inventories, so their selections are not going to be as extensive as they have been in the past.”
Sherry Frisby, manager of the Salisbury JCPenney, said her staff is already getting things ready for the big weekend by moving anything that’s in the stock room out onto the salesfloor.
“We still want to maintain our 36-inch aisle because we want customers to be able to get around comfortably so we’re not cramming things in,” she said. “But we want to put as much out as possible so customers don’t have to wonder if we have items in the backroom.”
Frisby said every single staff member will be working this weekend to ensure shoppers don’t have to suffer through long lines or search the store for help.
“They’ll be at the register and out on the floor helping customers find what they need,” she said. “They’ll also be cleaning our fitting rooms and straighten up the tables so customers can shop easily.”
The influx in traffic at the store has quite a bit of impact on sales figures, Frisby said.
“We’re expecting a good weekend,” she said. “We’ve beefed up our staff and we’ve got our merchandise out and ready to sell.”
The JCPenney salon will also be offering free haircuts to children in kindergarten through sixth grade throughout the weekend.
The promotion begins today and runs through the end of the month.
Those interested in taking advantage of the no-cost cut can schedule an appointment by calling the store at 704-636-1531.
Although some will wait patiently in line to save about $70 on a $1,000 computer or $3.50 on a $50 piece of athletic wear, others would rather skip the crowds and the savings in favor of holding on to their sanity.
“I’m not a crowd person,” said Emilia Johnson.
The third grade teacher from Isenberg Elementary said she was actually trying to beat the crowds by filling her cart at Creative Teaching Aids on Tuesday.
That’s not to say that Johnson hasn’t been shopping during tax free weekend.
“My husband and I have bought big things like computers and printers,” she said. “We don’t normally plan for the other stuff.”
But Johnson said she can understand why some families would plan to hold off on purchasing school supplies until the weekend.
“Every little bit counts,” she said. “It’s not as crucial for me now that my kids are grown, but I can see why it would be advantageous for families to wait.”
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.

Fast facts about the sales tax holiday
• Begins at 12:01 a.m. Friday and lasts until 11:59 p.m. Sunday.
• Exempt items include clothing, footwear and school supplies of $100 or less per item; school instructional materials of $300 or less per item; sports and recreational equipment of $50 or less per item; computers of $3,500 or less per item; and computer supplies of $250 or less per item from sales tax. Tablet computers and netbooks of $3,500 or less per item qualify, eReaders do not.
• Fabric, thread, yarn and other such items purchased to make clothing are taxable.
Department of Revenue estimates the state will lose about $13.6 million in sales tax revenue over the weekend.
• Participation in the sales tax holiday is required, retailers cannot opt out.
Source: North Carolina Department of Revenue