Tax-free weekend shoppers target clothes, supplies
By Wes Wade | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
If there’s one thing that brings out the shoppers, it’s the promise of tax-free merchandise.
This weekend marked the seventh year since Tennessee started the “Sales Tax Holiday,” which always takes place the first weekend of August. The sale ends today at midnight.
Unlike last year, the tax-free holiday happened to fall on the weekend prior to the start of school instead of the weekend following. Retailers and shoppers alike in Alcoa and Maryville, like Alcoa Walmart General Manager Boyce Smith, said that this has made it much easier on those doing back-to-school shopping.
“It has been excellent,” Smith said. “It’s been a lot better opportunity for the folks buying back-to-school supplies that children haven’t started. So we’re seeing big sales in stationery and really big sales in apparel.”
Smith said sales in both departments have been higher this weekend than during last year’s tax-free holiday. And it certainly appeared to be the major trend for those hitting retailers on Saturday. Maryville resident Joy Waters visited the Alcoa Walmart with her 8-year-old daughter Halle with a long list filled with school supplies — notebooks, paper, crayons, scissors, pencils, binders and glue — were all high priority items.
Clothing a hit
Tiffany Lewis of Maryville was at Walmart with her 5-year-old son Benjamin to stock up on back-to-school clothing. This year it was Avengers and superhero-themed clothing for Benjamin.
Over at JC Penney in Foothills Mall, Madisonville resident Karen Thomas was shopping for her 5-year-old niece, Hannah Mae Thomas, who is entering her first year of school. This year’s fashion for kindergartners?
“It’s peace signs,” Thomas said. “Everything’s peace signs for 5-year-olds.”
Thomas said they always try to participate in tax-free weekend and usually try to shop in Monroe or Blount counties.
“What brought us out was the tax-free weekend and her (Hannah) starting her new adventure in the public school system,” Thomas said.
Shopper Rachel Harrill, who was also at JC Penney looking for good clothing deals for her two children, said the tax-free weekend is something that motivates a lot of shoppers.
“(We go) usually every year,” Harrill said. “It’s kind of like Black Friday.”
JC Penney Department manager Wilma Smith said the store has been extremely busy all weekend.
“We’ve had a busy day,” Smith said. “Very busy, good traffic. It feels great.”
Smith said the store’s new everyday low-pricing has worked along with the tax-free holiday to make for a strong day of consumer traffic. She said the store is on track to meet last year’s sales totals and that the highest selling merchandise this weekend has come from the children’s, men’s and juniors departments. The store is also currently offering free haircuts for children in kindergarten through first grade for the month of August. Smith advised that interested parents make appointments for their children.
Office Depot Department Manager Maxx Charner said his store in Alcoa has seen strong sales across the board.
“As of right now it looks like we’re on track to do same (sales numbers) as last year,” Charner said.
He said the store has sold a few more computer tablets than last year, thanks in part to the emergence of a stronger market for these items in addition to more products and competition. Walmart General Manager Boyce Smith said consumer preference is starting to shift toward tablets and that at times it’s been tough to meet customer demands.
Smith said the Alcoa Walmart location sees an increase every year in those participating in the tax-free holiday weekend and that at last count Friday, customer traffic was up about five percent. He said customers have also developed more of a knack for tax-free shopping during the last few years.
“I think the big thing is the customer has gotten a lot more educated about tax-free (weekend),” Smith said. “The customer understands how tax free works (and) what items are tax free.”