Aug. 17--Shoppers packed stores as the state's sales tax holiday kicked off yesterday, with retailers anticipating a blockbuster weekend at the registers in the doldrums of summer.
"We are expecting to see a pretty big weekend," said Bill Rennie, vice president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts. "We're expecting big crowds this weekend, a lot of traffic in the stores."
A spokesman for the Northshore Mall in Peabody said stores were busy yesterday, and so were the parking lots.
"You can definitely see the influx of traffic compared to a typical Saturday in August," said Rich Balest. "Northshore is looking pretty good right now."
The big box stores and electronics retailers were seeing the most traffic, he said.
Rennie said the association's members expect to rack up close to $500,000 in sales this weekend.
"Interest is as high as it's been in years past," Rennie said.
The state department of revenue estimated the state missed out on roughly $24.6 million in uncollected sales tax last year. That was the fourth straight increase over the year before.
Many stores doubled their staffing levels and across the state malls rolled out the promotions and gimmicks. The Simon Malls, which include the Northshore Mall, Square One Mall and South Shore Plaza, had extended hours, and the Northshore Mall had puppies on hand so people could take a break from sales tax-free shopping and play with the dogs.
Antonio Duarte said his freezer broke a week ago and he waited for the tax holiday to take a trip to the Northshore Mall to replace it.
"It comes at the right time," Duarte said. "I saved a few bucks."
Stacey Stanley is building a new house, and needed some supplies from the plumbing supply store, she said.
"It just so happened to fall on the tax-free holiday, so we said might as well," she said. "I think it's great, maybe they should do it twice a year."
Still, not everyone was buying into the sales tax holiday, which suspends the sales tax for items up to $2,500 -- a $150 savings on the maximum amount.
Still, he said the holiday can help people save on specific items.
"People are going to save the most on big-ticket items, stuff for which normally it hurts if you have to pay sales tax on it," he said. "Just because it's 6.25 percent less expensive, that's no reason to buy it if you don't need it."