Shoppers get ready for school with tax-free weekend

By David Broyles

August 3, 2013

North Carolina’s last tax-free holiday weekend kicked off at 12:01 Friday morning as shoppers bent on saving money on items including on clothes, school supplies and computers began to ready themselves for the coming school year.

Retail industry reports suggest for the past 12 years of the holiday’s existence in the state, it has been the second-busiest shopping holiday of the year, behind Black Friday. With the governor’s signing of the new budget, the tax holiday has been nixed for the future.

Spirits appeared high Friday in Mount Airy with most retailers and shoppers resigned to enjoy a seven percent savings just one more time.

“It really is as big as Black Friday for us,” said Staples Manager Terry Horton. “We’ve been doing this for several years and sales tend to stay strong until the first week of school. It (the sales tax free weekend) really kicks off the selling season. Many of our customers don’t like the crowds and start their school shopping earlier. Really I feel like this inspires or drives them to take advantage of savings so it has been a help to customers, especially those on a budget.”

Staples shopper Julie Gillespie is also a special needs class teacher at Surry Central High School. She said she was also in the store looking for a bargain for her daughter, Megan, who plans on attending Surry Community College.

“I usually participate in the tax free weekend to buy supplies for my students as well as my own children,” said Gillespie. “We’ve always shopped this.” Megan said she was excited about saving more than 30 dollars on a new lap top she had to purchase.

Other shoppers agreed with Horton and said that although the holiday went smoothly last year, they didn’t like the crowds. Several said they didn’t really think much about the tax-free weekend.

Kmart associates in the Mayberry Mall wore backpacks with signs telling shoppers they were on sale and offering a replacement plan for the backpacks.

“You know how hard children are on backpacks,” said Kmart Softlines Manager Melissa Edwards. “We have had associates who sold the knapsacks off their backs and the replacement plan along with it. I also think a lot of our customers like that we have layaway year round and tax-free items can be put on layaway.”

Kmart Hardlines Manager Dave Burr also said he felt customers were divided about the tax-free event with some taking advantage of the sales. He said Friday looked like it was going to be stronger than the first day of the weekend last year but said Saturday would be their big day.

J.C. Penney Supervisor Mary Smith said shopper response had been good as of Friday afternoon and said Saturday would be a big day for them.

“Customers have been upbeat. They are used to the game,” said Smith. “This is an indicator of what kind of sales your last quarter will have.”

In downtown Mount Airy, Mayberry Consignments and Souvenirs Owner Julie Teague greeted customers with arms draped in clothing. She said business was very busy compared to other tax-free Fridays.

“Seven percent. I think it puts people in the mood to shop,” Teague said. “Most of my merchandise is half price but with the tax-free day customers seem to be buying more than usual. It’s really all just about getting back to school. All the coverage this gets in the press is like advertising for us. It’s a big boost.”

Lawmakers cut short a future for the tax-free weekend as part of new tax reform Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law. Supporters of the reform say everyone’s state income taxes will be reduced, putting more money in peoples’ pockets day-to-day. Some reports have indicated last year the tax-free weekend cost the state $13.3 million in lost tax revenue.

According to the North Carolina Department of Revenue, items that can be purchased without sales tax include clothing with a sales price of $100 or less, sporting equipment costing $50 or less, computers, (including tablet computers) and netbooks, with a sales price of $3,500 or less per item. Other items which qualify for tax free are computer supplies with a sales price of $250 or less per item and school instructional materials with a sales price of $300 or less.

Items that do not qualify for the sales-tax holiday are sales of clothing accessories or equipment, protective equipment, furniture, an item for use in a trade or business and rentals.

Shopper Stella Ward didn’t even look away as she tried a shirt on her son, Elijah Warf, when asked how much of a draw the tax-free weekend was to them. Her daughter Teyah and Teresa Lawson, the children’s grandmother, also were standing by.

“It’s gotta be done before school starts,” said Ward. “They (the kids) are looking forward to it.”

Reach David Broyles at or 719-1952.