07/21/14 — Back-to-school bargain hunting

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Back-to-school bargain hunting

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on July 21, 2014 2:02 PM

There might not be an official weekend for tax-free bargains this year, but local shoppers will still be able to find back-to-school discounts to help get them through their lists, local stores say.

Hearing that this year there would be no tax-free weekend in North Carolina was not good news for Jessica Person, mother of 12-year-old twins Megan and Hailey Turbeville and 9-year-old Emily Person.

It has been part of her back-to-school spending plan.

"I have done the tax-free weekend in the past," Mrs. Person said. "When you have three kids, every little bit helps; even a dollar off is still a dollar saved."

She said the tax-free weekend was especially helpful when it came to buying clothing and shoes.

"When you buy three pairs of shoes, it saves right around $10 or $12," Mrs. Person said. "Last year, the tax-free weekend saved me a good $50. And $50, that's a week's worth of gas."

She said tax-free weekend shopping was her family's back-to-school tradition.

"Each kid would get three or four new outfits and new tennis shoes," Mrs. Person said. "With Megan and Hailey in middle school, they have PE, so I went ahead and got them yoga pants and jogging pants because they have to change clothes for PE."

But the tax-free weekend didn't mean that Mrs. Person would go out and buy just anything.

"I would buy only stuff they had to have," she said. "With three children, I have to do that. It was all practical stuff because I have to watch what I buy."

She was shocked when she learned there would be no tax-free weekend this summer.

"I was kind of disappointed," Mrs. Person said. "Every little bit helps, especially when you have two going to middle school. The older they are, the more expensive."

This year, Mrs. Person is keeping a closer eye out for the really, really good sales on back-to-school supplies and clothing.

"We'll be more careful on clothes and stuff," she said. "But as far as school supplies, tax-free weekend or no tax-free weekend, they have to have it. We'll probably wait a little bit longer on the clothes. We'll be really looking for sales for school clothes. If it's not on sale, we probably won't get it."

To find the good deals, Mrs. Person will look everywhere -- especially for coupons.

"They email me about sales, and I've gotten coupons from them, too," she said. "I've gotten coupons from Hibbetts for $25 off my next purchase of $100. That's good for shoes."

Al Southerland said his family used to do most of its shopping on tax-free weekend.

"You have to remember where the funds come from and that every dime really counts," he said. "We were spending $1,200, and not paying taxes would save us about $75. That was $75 that we didn't have to pay, and we could use it to buy more supplies.

"Since it is no longer there, we are going to have to make up the difference somehow. Parents have kids in schools. I have three granddaughters in college. You know, every bit helps, and it helps families a lot."

To help parents like Mrs. Person and grandparents like Southerland, Wayne County stores are having bigger-than-usual sales.

Target has some deals on items like portfolios in various colors, pens and highlighters, markers, notebooks, filler paper, planners, permanent markers, dry erase calendars, lunch satchels, backpacks and all kinds of clothing for boys and girls going back to school.

"I don't think not having the tax-free weekend will hurt Target," said Michelle Breen, executive team leader for logistics. "It helped us a lot of times with clothing, but for back-to-school supplies, it didn't make a big difference."

Ms. Breen said Target will keep sales going on back-to-school items through the end of August so parents can spread their shopping out over several weeks.

Target also has a special promotion going on now where the store will donate an item to a school for every Up and Up brand item purchased.

The loss of the tax-free weekend probably won't affect sales at JCPenney either, said Rosalinda Barrow, human resources supervisor

"We are planning on having special sales to help cover that," she said.

The store will give out coupons for back-to-school items and clothing, and is planning several special back-to-school shopping events.

"In about a week, we have a big bra fit event," Ms. Barrow said. "Going back to school, a lot of girls, especially ones who are going to middle school, need help getting that bra. They say eight out of 10 women are wearing the wrong bra.

"All our bra fitters are specially certified. We're going have appointments where you can come in and make an appointment and get you one-on-one with one of our certified bra fitters. It will be for all ages."

The store also will set up a dorm shop, which will contain everything college students need for heading back to school.

And, of course, there will be bargains.

"Pretty much everything's going to be on sale, a good 85 percent of the store," Ms. Barrow said. "(We are) just giving coupons out left and right."

And the savings don't stop there.

"At the bottom of your receipt, you'll find a survey you can take and get a 10 percent off coupon that's good even for Penney's doorbusters. And with the purchase of certain items, you'll get a coupon for so much off a future purchase."

And to make that shopping trip complete, parents can stop by JCPenney for one more back-to-school necessity, Ms. Barrow said.

"We're even offering special $10 haircuts for children of all ages, Going back to school, kids need haircuts."