Shoppers miss tax-free holidays for back-to-school [The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. :: ]
(Fayetteville Observer (NC) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) July 29--If you're thinking about saving some money on back-to-school clothes and supplies this weekend, think again.
North Carolina's sales tax holidays, which began in 2002, were ended by the General Assembly last year.
Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law in July 2013 a tax reform bill that included a provision to end the tax holidays, which were usually held yearly on the first full weekend of August. Shoppers in North Carolina were able to save money on clothing under $100, computers, school supplies, and sports and recreation equipment, among other things. Another weekend in November waived taxes on energy-efficient appliances.
Cumberland County's sales tax rate is 7 percent; 4.75 percent goes to the state, while 2.25 percent goes to the county.
Year-round school already has begun in Cumberland County. The traditional school year starts Aug. 26.
Not everyone is aware the holiday has been discontinued.
"It's odd. I didn't know they weren't going to do it this year," said Bettina Peveler, a mother of five. "It's surprising."
Peveler, 35, was shopping Friday morning at Cross Creek Mall. She was picking up a couple of things for her children, who were in tow.
In previous years, she would routinely buy clothing for her family during the back-to-school tax-free weekend -- especially, she said, for her eldest daughter, who covets name brands.
Peveler said she will be doing a lot more online shopping and using coupons to help offset the loss of savings.
Although North Carolina is no longer participating, neighboring South Carolina (Friday-Sunday), Virginia (Friday-Sunday) and Georgia (Friday and Saturday) still have a back-to-school tax holiday.
"Some people need that help. I shipped three kids off to college, and that helped me," said 59-year-old Lula King, who was sitting on a bench outside Roses department store at Westwood Shopping Center. "It's good for business, too -- even people who don't have children (and) just need something for their own."
Anna Marquez, co-manager at Journeys in Cross Creek Mall, reported that her store did $24,000 in business a year ago on the Saturday of the tax-free weekend. In hopes of maintaining strong sales, she said, the three Journeys apparel stores in the mall will offer 10 percent off all merchandise. On top of that, the store's 10 percent military discount, where applicable, and store coupons will be honored.
"We wonder how it's going to be for tax-free weekend if people are going to go out of state," she said, considering shoppers who may drive to South Carolina for the savings. "Hopefully, not everybody is running away from here."
Tammy Hopkins, Cross Creek Mall spokeswoman, said she does not anticipate the change to have a huge effect on stores.
"Historically, tax-free shopping weekend is a big weekend for retail," she said. "It was busy but typically would fall around (military) payday weekend. The big-box stores -- it will be interesting to see how it impacts them."
Another mall merchant, who asked not to be identified because media inquiries are supposed to go through the store's corporate office, said she expects to see a 50 percent drop in sales over that weekend.
"It's going to hurt us," she said. "It will (have) a dramatic impact on our business over the tax-free weekend. We would almost double our business at that time."
Alex Fox, manager of Radio Shack at Westwood, predicted "a little downfall for the company." The electronics retailer sells computers and tablets.
"Computers was the biggest thing for that," Fox said.
The North Carolina Retail Merchants Association said it plans to monitor sales this weekend in the hopes of building a case to bring back the sales tax holiday.
In the meantime, the nonprofit retail advocate suggests on its website that merchants "be creative and continue to provide great sales to North Carolina consumers just as they have always done."
Jaye Orellano also was surprised to discover that the tax-free holiday is a thing of the past.
Orellano was shopping at the mall with her daughters Victoria, 6, and Gianna, 4. Her infant son, Henry, was sleeping next to them in a baby stroller.
Orellano estimated that in years past, her family saved "a good $100" shopping for back-to-school necessities over the weekend.
"We just knew that's the day we're going to do the bulk of our shopping," she said. "It was always clothes and school supplies."
Staff writer Michael Futch can be reached at email@example.com or 486-3529.
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