Through midnight Sunday, shoppers in South Carolina won’t have to pay state or local sales taxes on traditional back-to-school related merchandise such as clothing and school supplies, plus other items like bedding and linens, bathroom towels and mats, even computers and printers.
Dr. Marianne Bickle is Chair of the College of Hospitality, Retail and Sports Management at the University of South Carolina. She says with the economy being in a slump for a while, there have already been plenty of gimmicks this year to help move merchandise.
“Retailers are having sales every single week but it’s for a different event,” says Bickle. “And so I think what’s happening is consumers are becoming acclimatized to that stimuli. They’re so used to seeing 20 percent off, 30 percent off, 40 percent off.”
Still, Bickle says retailers have prepared for and promoted this tax-free weekend. “I’ve talked to multiple discount retailers as well as department store retailers and they’ve really geared up. They have a lot more merchandise on hand.” She adds, “They’ve done some in-store promotional set-ups where they will put merchandise together and they’re really making sure they have enough personnel on hand.”
The popularity of the three-day sales tax holiday has made it the third-busiest shopping period of the year, surpassed only by the weekend after Thanksgiving and the weekend before Christmas.
Will all the talk about the federal debt and yesterday’s Dow Jones decline keep shoppers from hitting the stores during this shopping period?
Dr. Bickle says the lure of a three-day break from paying state and local sales taxes is especially hard to pass up right now and that “Shoppers are really very cost-conscious. And over the past year, they have really gone into a 1940’s frame of mind, in a good way, in the sense that they’re very coupon oriented, very price oriented. And so I think what’s going to happen this year is a lot of people are going to go out shopping for the tax-free weekend.”
Bickle thinks the stores that sell computers and printers will be especially swamped. “For two reasons,” she surmises. “One, technology continues to be the lead purchase throughout consumer purchasing trends. And number two, consumers can save the most amount of money when purchasing technology this weekend.”
For a list of what’s tax-free, check with the state Department of Revenue’s website at www.sctax.org.
David Waterman, affiliate WVOC in Columbia contributed to this report.