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Back-to-school shoppers take advantage of ‘holiday’

By Staff | Aug 14, 2010

Parents and grandparents, with the little ones in tow, hit the stores Friday to take advantage of the first day of Florida’s 2010 Sales Tax Holiday.
The three-day holiday, which runs through Sunday, offers back-to-school shoppers a chance to stock up on clothes and supplies without paying sales tax. School supplies that cost under $10 qualify for the state sales tax exemption, along with books, clothes and shoes that cost under $50.
Judy Wherett stopped by Kohl’s on Pine Island Road with her 6-year-old son, Trevor Braley, and her mother, Linda Kelley. Wherett, who recently moved to Cape Coral from New Hampshire, said she found the holiday to be a plus since she is not used to paying a sales tax — her former home state is tax-free.
“I think it’s fantastic,” Wherett said.
Looking for school uniform items, she found Kohl’s prices to be “pretty good.” They next planned to visit Wal-Mart or Staples for school supplies.
“We wanted to get in on the first day of it,” Wherett said of Friday’s trips.
Kim Magee, of Cape Coral, also took advantage of the tax-free holiday. The mother of four was found Friday afternoon checking out at a register at the Target on Santa Barbara Boulevard. Her 10-year-old daughter, Kacy, and 6-year-old son, Logan, were at her side when the total came to about $250.
Magee said the family, out shopping specifically for school clothing, spent another $300 or so at Kohl’s earlier that day. Always one to participate in the holiday, when it is offered, Magee said it helps the family save money.
“It would have been double,” she said of the total back-to-school bill.
One complaint Magee had was that the holiday only lasts for three days.
“I’ve got a family of four kids. It should be longer than three days,” she said.
The holiday, which has been around since the late 1990s, has been offered on and off for the last 12 years. It was last offered in 2007 for a period of 10 days. State officials have offered no reason for the shorter period this year.
Magee said having only three days forces families that want to or need to take advantage of the holiday to get out and shop, regardless of situation.
“I’ve got no choice,” she said. “I’ve got to go now.”
Store officials also found a downside to the shorter tax-free holiday. Ruben Irizarry, store manager of the JC Penny on Del Prado Boulevard, said it was a challenge to reach the appropriate staffing level for the anticipated crowds.
“We had to really gear up our staff to accommodate the crowd,” he said.
Irizarry also pointed out that the longer holiday period typically enables customers to use two paychecks to cover new school clothes and supplies. This year, most will only have money from one check, unless they saved.
Yet, with in-store discounts pulling prices lower, customers are shopping.
“It’s about two and half times more than normal business,” Irizarry said before the evening and night rush Friday. “When people get off work, that’s when we’re expecting out biggest rush.”
School uniforms, skinny jeans and tops for young men and juniors are all hot items. With families mainly hitting the stores Friday, Irizarry suspects those without children will drop by on the weekend to also stock up on new clothes.
“Everybody will take advantage,” he said.
And taking advantage was the name of the game for Friday’s shoppers.
“I need to save as much money as I can,” said Dawn Thompson, who was shopping at Kohl’s with her 7-year-old daughter, Danielle. “Times are hard.”
Expecting to spend anywhere from $300-$400, Thompson hoped to save quite a bit more once the in-store discounts were tallied into the final bill.
Lisa Clark, who hit Target with her granddaughter, 5-year-old Jaden, said the holiday is “needed.” The two were shopping for uniforms and school supplies.
“It’s hard these days, so any break you can get is good,” Clark said.
A full list of tax exempt items are available on the Florida Department of Revenue website at: myflorida.com/dor. Officials encourage vendors and shoppers to visit the website, which also includes a list of taxable items.