08/09/09 — Shoppers hit local stores as 'tax-free' winds down

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Shoppers hit local stores as 'tax-free' winds down

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on August 9, 2009 2:00 AM

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Mandy Scott, left, takes advantage of the tax-free weekend to purchase back-to-school clothes for her daughters Kayla, 14, and Kimberly, 12, while shopping at JC Penney at Berkeley Mall on Saturday.

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Evan Sutton looks at backpacks with his mom, Dana, at Target Friday. The Seven Springs family took advantage of the tax-free weekend to find the perfect bag for the soon-to-be Wayne Christian School kindergartner.

A few dollars on a backpack.

A dozen more on T-shirts and jeans.

And some pocket change on loose leaf paper.

This weekend's tax-free sales saved the Sanchez family -- and many others in Wayne County -- plenty of money, said Mary Sanchez, who showed up at the Target in Goldsboro with her three children to take care of back-to-school lists and purchase other necessities.

"At first, you don't think it's going to save you that much," Mrs. Sanchez said. "But so far today we have saved close to $50. That's enough to pay for food for the rest of the weekend."

Her youngest child, 6-year-old Javier, is going to be a first-grader.

His priority: A new backpack.

"I want one with Diego on it," he said to his mother.

"OK. We'll try to find you one," she replied, adding that she expected to save close to $10 on the book bag if she finds it.

But the biggest savings, she said, came on clothing.

"All the children need new jeans and shoes and underwear," she said. "With no tax, it should be a lot better. But it's still expensive."

Maybe that is why those who showed up at the Berkeley Mall JC Penny spent less than they did last year.

"They are definitely coming in for the sale. You can see that. Yesterday was great for us," said store manager Karen Witt. "But our average transaction is down from where it was at this time last year. People are spending less every time they spend something."

That wasn't the case at Staples, where Martin Best was stocking up on everything from paper to ball-point pens.

"The kids are out with their mom getting clothes, so I'm taking care of the school supplies," he said. "I'd say by the end of all this, we probably save about $100 every year during the tax-free weekend."

Kimberly Johnston might not have had enough money to buy a new pair of shoes at the mall had it not been for the lack of tax.

"An extra $10 for tax would put me over my budget," the 16-year-old said. "And I really want these shoes, so I'm glad they are cheaper today."

But a new pair of shoes wasn't the only thing on her mind.

"I have to come back out later with my grandma to get school supplies," she said. "She makes me wait until the no taxes weekend every year."

Many local stores and parking lots were packed Saturday as more and more people looked for places to save a few dollars.

"We deserve it," said Martha Gomez. "We pay a lot in taxes as it is, so I think we are owed a weekend like this. The stores still get their money but the government won't. And why should they? Everyone else it getting a bailout. This is ours."

Ms. Gomez just wanted some new blouses for her niece to debut when she starts fifth grade later this month.

"Every little girl should have a new set of clothes on her first day of school," Ms. Gomez said. "Without taxes, we can afford to do that for her."

Tax-free sales end at midnight tonight. So Mrs. Witt hopes this afternoon will bring one more push from shoppers looking to save.

"Today has not been nearly as hectic as Friday was, so I'm hoping for it to keep pulling up," she said. "Sunday, I think it's going to be crazy."