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McClatchy-Tribune  08/04/2014 4:16 PM ET
Retailers steady in wake of tax-free weekend [The Daily News, Jacksonville, N.C. :: ]

Aug. 04--This year's first weekend of August, North Carolina shoppers paid sales taxes -- something they haven't had to do in more than a decade.

"It's annoying," David Voss of Richlands said while shopping at Jacksonville's Best Buy on Saturday. "No one asked for our opinion or say. They just took it away."

As part of last year's state tax overhaul signed by Gov. Pat McCrory, the annual tax-free holiday became history -- starting this year.

The three-day tax holiday provided an automatic 7 percent discount on purchases in Onslow County, a discount Elizabeth Massalene of Jacksonville said she misses.

Massalene said she's a single mother who has used tax-free weekends to get a head start on back-to-school shopping.

Massalene still used that weekend this year to get the supplies her 13 year old needs for next school year at the Staples on Western Boulevard but she had to change her shopping this year.

She gradually bought school supplies instead of doing it all in one weekend as in recent years.

"I hope it does come back," Massalene said. "It saves parents a lot of money and helps out with costs."

Jobe Alvis, who has been general manager of Jacksonville's Staples for the past 15 years, said he's seen a noticeable difference in sales and traffic this year compared to recent years with the tax-free incentive.

Alvis said traffic has been much steadier through the month of July as customers opted to shop through the month instead of holding off until the first weekend in August.

Alvis said the first Friday, Saturday and Sunday of August used to be among the year's most hectic days as shoppers packed the store.

"Everyone seemed to hold off on buying school supplies until that weekend," Alvis said.

That was also the case next door at the Jacksonville Best Buy, where sales associate Doug Hackler has worked more than two years.

Hackler compared tax-free weekend's atmosphere to Black Friday. Hackler said by the end of the weekend, he and his colleagues were wiped out. Friday was a similar story at Best Buy, Hackler said, with people flooding the store -- many still believing they would be charged no sales tax.

"It was a lot more dead on Saturday," Hackler said. "A lot of people are going to Myrtle Beach instead."

Sixteen states, including South Carolina, still have sales-tax holidays.

Victoria Mann, general manager at the Jacksonville Best Buy, said although things weren't as hectic at her store as they were last year, traffic was still steady and sales were still good. In year's past, the weeks leading up to, and following, tax-free weekend, the store was quiet.

Mann said the store tried to focus on having a steady, solid July to offset the usual early August deluge of sales.

"We tried to focus on having a great month all month long to try to combat the weekend because tax-free weekend was only three days," Mann said. "So if you have a really great month, it makes up for it."

Alvis said the end of tax-free weekend made keeping items in supply easier, as opposed to previous summers when binders, rulers and pens would vacate the shelves.

Alvis said tax-free weekend will be missed, but only for top-line sales.

He said overall sales are still about the same over a longer period than in recent years.

Alvis said despite his opinions, the decision to bring back tax-free weekend is Raleigh's -- not his.

"That's all up to McCrory," Alvis said.

 

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