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No holiday from tax this year
Retailers not sure of impact
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Allison Valdez, left, helps Parul Patel find graph paper Tuesday at Super Target in Cumming. - photo by Jim Dean
After a summer off, going back to school can be taxing.

Parents will learn that the hard way this year, as there is no back-to-school sales tax holiday in Georgia.

Some Forsyth County residents may not take much notice, but Mary Rainey said for people out of work and with the cost of clothing “it was a nice break for families.”

“Of course, the state is up against the wall. Something’s got to give somewhere,” said Rainey, who was shopping Tuesday night at the Cumming Super Target.

“It sure makes it harder on people living in the community to get by.”

The weekend, which usually fell around the first in August, had offered annual relief for families purchasing school supplies, including clothing, shoes, calculators, computers and pens since 2002.

But following more than a year of steep budget cuts, the state needed the revenue from the weekend, among the busiest of the year.

John Heavener, president of the Georgia Retail Association, said it’s too early to tell what type of impact this will have on businesses.

“I know that retailers are trying to pull out all the stops to compensate,” he said. “I don’t really have a feel yet for whether they’ll be able to pull out enough stops to make what they would have made during the sales tax holiday.

“I just don’t know. I’m not optimistic that we’ll match last year’s numbers.”

Office Depot will be offering a 6 percent discount through Saturday, said spokesman Jason Shockley.

The discount will be in addition to other back-to-school specials, like rulers and eraser caps for 5 and 10 cents.

“We have a lot of good value on this back-to-school weekend on items kids really need most,” he said.

The 6 percent discount is available in all Georgia stores, including the Lakeland Plaza location in Cumming, said Shockley, adding the state’s
“shoppers are accustomed to getting an extra discount.”

“It’s not a supplement for tax, but it is an additional discount to help Georgia shoppers,” he said.

Other stores like Old Navy and Target are banking on weekly sales to bring in customers.

Through today, Old Navy on Market Place Boulevard is offering $5 golf shirts and $10 khaki pants, said spokesman Derrick Smith.

“You’re also going to see some denim promotions that start this week,” he said. “We hope that will drive ... the business that we need and the traffic that we want.”

Without the incentive to condense all shopping into one tax-free holiday, Cumming Super Target store manager Steve Reid said he’s “added additional cashiers and staff earlier, because it looks like people will be shopping for an extended period.”

Each week, Target’s sales ads offer different deals and savings, Reid said.

This week, composition books are 25 cents, lunchboxes are $8, backpacks are $9 and filler paper is 75 cents, he said.

“A lot of people have commented that they’re picking up a little bit at a time. Each week they’re adding a few new items,” he said. “We just see the same guests coming back.”

Heavener said the weeks leading to the first day of school, which this year is Aug. 9, are typically busy and filled with many sales. It’s among the busiest shopping period for retailers.

But despite already higher sales, he said there is “something about the sales tax holiday that defies definition.”

“People are really pleased when they don’t have to pay the sales tax,” he said. “They prefer to spend money and take advantage of sales and it does have some kind of an unusually strong impact on shoppers.”

There is some hope for retailers, including computer and technology companies, which Heavener said could be hit hardest.

The National Retail Federation is showing an increase in back-to-school sales. A recent survey found the average family will spend about $606 on clothes, shoes, supplies and electronics, compared to $548 last year.

More than 71 percent of families will head to a discount store, among other shopping destinations, and more than 44 percent said they will buy store brand, or generic products.