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Retailers look forward to tax-free weekend

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

Local retailers say the sales-tax-free weekend is one of the busiest of the year, and they are counting on the seventh annual back-to-school event to be as successful as previous years.

The tax-free weekend starts Friday, Aug. 1, and runs through Sunday, Aug. 3.

During the weekend, consumers will not pay sales tax on the following items: clothes and footwear costing less than $100 per item; school supplies such as pens, pencils, paper, notebooks, textbooks, book bags, lunch bags and calculators costing less than $100 per item; sports and recreation equipment costing $50 or less per item; computers costing less than $3,500 and computer supplies costing less that $250 per item.

“It’s a monstrous weekend for us,” said Jeremy Mackey, store manager at Office Depot in Shallotte Crossing. “It’s the second busiest part of the entire year,” behind the day after Thanksgiving.

Mackey said students and their parents mob the store every year in search of composition books, binders, rulers, book covers and other needed supplies. The store assists those shoppers by posting school supply lists from local schools.

In addition to a large number of smaller items, shoppers also use the tax-free weekend to purchase computers and computer accessories, Mackey said.

Office Depot also participates in a “Back to the Schools” program, in which 5 percent of the purchase price is donated to a school of the customer’s choice.

During the tax-free weekend, employees solicit donations from customers, asking to what school they want to donate proceeds.

The local store is also participating in Teacher Appreciation Week Aug. 3-9 and providing a “Star Teacher Breakfast” Aug. 9, Mackey said.

At Belk department store in Shallotte Crossing, office manager/special events coordinator Kathy Callison says children’s clothing, backpacks, shoes and dorm room furnishings for college-bound students are the biggest sellers during tax-free weekend.

According to Callison, denim is a popular choice for both boys and girls this year, and boys’ screen print tees and girls’ long baby doll tops are expected to be hot back-to-school items.

“And vests are starting to make a comeback [for] junior girls,” she added.

This year, Belk is promoting the weekend event with a 15-percent-off coupon good for Saturday only.

Back-to-school items are already selling well at Dollar General in Shallotte, store manager Doris Mintz said this week.

“We do well on a daily basis,” she said, noting the tax-free weekend is usually an added bonus.

Mintz said school supplies and dorm room items like sheets and comforters are big sellers.

Last year, Gov. Mike Easley signed a law that added school instructional materials such as reference books, maps, globes, textbooks and workbooks with an individual price tag of up to $300, to the list of items included as exempt from the sales tax.

The previous price limit was $100.

“As many families find themselves squeezed by the national economy with increasing prices for food, gasoline and other necessities, our tax holiday offers consumers a chance for some real savings,” Easley stated.

The back-to-school sales tax holiday was enacted by the General Assembly and signed into law by Easley in 2001.

An all-inclusive list of items that qualify as “school supplies” during the sales tax holiday is available at the N.C. Department of Revenue’s Web site: http://www.dornc.com/taxes/sales/holiday_4-08.pdf