08/08/10 — Crowds chase back-to-school tax-free bargains at stores

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Crowds chase back-to-school tax-free bargains at stores

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 8, 2010 1:50 AM
Last update on: August 9, 2010 8:40 AM

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News-Argus/Troy Herring

Staples employee Will Daniel, right, discusses information with James Blackman, son Noah, and parents Robert and Brenda as they buy a new computer for Noah and his brother during the tax holiday Saturday.

Noah Blackman of Grantham was beaming Saturday morning at Staples as he watched his grandparents and father James pay for the computer he would soon share with his 15-year-old brother.

"We're helping -- 50/50 -- it's a gift to him," explained Noah's grandfather, Robert Blackman. "They have been coming over to our house all the time to do work on our computer.

"They live about 100 yards from us. They always come over for cookies and candy and cakes."

Now that Noah has access to his own computer and printer, future family visits will be just for fun, Blackman said.

The tax-free weekend was definitely an incentive for anyone needing a computer or other big-ticket items.

But it was just as lucrative for those doing back-to-school shopping for clothes and school supplies.

Heather Braswell of Grantham was also at Staples, accompanied by daughter Brooke, 5, and niece Rebecca Crawford, 8.

Rebecca carried a basket stocked with notebooks and pencils as her aunt checked the shelves.

"I have got the school list," Ms. Braswell said. "I printed it off the website."

They ventured out on Saturday, she said, "mostly for general supplies."

"And clothes," added Rebecca.

The tax-free weekend was also enticing for Felix Thomas, stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, out shopping for a wireless router and external hard drive. He said he was impressed with the prices at Staples and would be purchasing at least one item from his list.

"I think I'm going to take a look at a couple other shops for the hard drive," he said.

Sarah Coghill, assistant manager of the store, said computer sales had been most popular this weekend, particularly laptops and desktops.

"We actually sold 35 computers (Friday)," she said. "That was quite a bit for us. We were totally stocked. ... We're starting another sale (Sunday) so we'll have plenty of people coming in because it's still tax-free."

Sterling Price, a graduate of Spring Creek High School entering his sophomore year at UNC-Chapel Hill, said he already has a computer but opted to pick up his school supplies at Staples.

His carry basket already brimming with notebooks, he said he only lacked a few pens and highlighters before finishing up.

He'd already done his clothes shopping on Friday in Raleigh, where he said Crabtree Valley Mall was packed.

"I went to the Apple store and the line went all the way from the center of the mall into the store," he said.

At Berkeley Mall on Friday, Karen Padgett was accompanied by 5-year-old daughter Emma, who will soon be starting kindergarten at Meadow Lane Elementary School.

They were mostly seeking clothes in line with the district's dress code, Mrs. Padgett said.

"I haven't got the list yet (of school supplies)," she said. "Since this is our first year, it's all brand new. We waited until this weekend, but there's some good sales."

At JC Penney, Jaclyn Thompson of Princeton had her arms loaded with children's clothes that were up for consideration for her 7-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son.

"This is our first store so we're trying out styles, seeing what we like and going from there," she said Friday afternoon. "We're buying the fall clothes and winter clothes. ... You have to find the right fit, the right cut and the right style, and then anticipate them growing in six months."

Paige Walker, a junior at Eastern Wayne High School, started out slowly but hoped to do well with the sales.

"I got a dress but that's it," she said Friday afternoon at Berkeley Commons. "I'm looking for jeans, checking out a few places, then going into town to find some good deals."

At TJ Maxx, LaShonda Miller had the shopping routine down to a science -- "for my two kids and a little for myself," she said.

"We went to Old Navy and I spent about $300-400 so I have done real good. I also really found some good clearance bargains."

The special prices also proved a draw for Steven Taylor from Floral Park, New York, visiting the area for a church convention.

"I didn't know about this before but found out," said Taylor, browsing Ross' men's department, who said he appreciated being able to save a little money.

Felicia Brown was at Kmart with daughters Daviona Quinn, 6, and Aleyah Brown, 16.

"I'm looking for a bookbag," said Davionna, holding up a choice of two.

She liked the Barbie bag best, she said.

"I'm just going through the list and what they need for school --- bookbags, pencils, flash drives," Ms. Brown said. "This is the first place we have gone to today."

Rising junior Aleyah had loftier goals.

"Clothes shopping, shoes, everything," she said. "I want a whole new wardrobe."

Also at Kmart were Betty Evans of Goldsboro, a mentor to Shaniah McBride, an eighth-grader at Dillard Middle School.

"We just went to Walmart and bought all her school supplies, except for a bookbag," Mrs. Evans said.

Shaniah produced a bookbag more to her liking, featuring larger pockets and compartments, colorful drawings of Tinker Bell on each side.

"I like Tinker Bell," Shaniah admitted.

The duo lacked a complete list from the school, Mrs. Evans said, so "came up with what we thought we needed."

Beyond saving some money, though, she said it was also about spending the day together.

"We just have a fun time," she said. "We have enjoyed shopping this morning. We're fixing to go out to lunch."