July 30, 2014

S.C.’s tax-free weekend kicks off Friday

South Carolina’s tax-free weekend has become a centerpiece of back-to-school shopping, and after cutbacks in spending a year ago, more robust activity should greet retailers this year.

York County retailers have come to rely on South Carolina’s tax-free weekend to help draw back-to-school shoppers through their doors.

This year, though, they are hoping for an even bigger boost, as North Carolina will not have its own sales tax holiday for the first time in 12 years.

“We will roll out the red carpet for both sides of the border,” said Angel Russell, marketing manager of the Rock Hill Galleria. “We certainly believe there is a better opportunity to welcome North Carolina shoppers.”

The Galleria will have extended hours, and free-standing retailers such as Walmart, Target and Best Buy have rolled out early specials in preparation for the crowds of shoppers they expect to see this weekend.

Raeann Belcher of Lancaster normally would go to Carolina Place mall in Pineville to do her 6-year-old daughter’s back-to-school shopping.

Like many shoppers, she wasn’t aware North Carolina would not offer a tax-free weekend this year.

“When did they cancel that?” she said. “That’s crazy. That’s horrible.”

Debbie Buchanan, Belcher’s mother, said the change will change their chopping plans this weekend.

“We have no choices,” Buchanan said. “We will go to South Carolina and shop.”

And that includes, she added, the Rock Hill Galleria.

Back-to-school shopping is a big deal for retailers. It has become one of the biggest annual shopping periods based on revenue – second only to the winter holiday shopping season between Thanksgiving and Christmas, according to National Retail Federation.

The average family with children in grades K-12 will spend about $670 on clothing and other school supplies, according to the retail federation’s 2014 national back-to-school survey. That’s up 5 percent from last year. Shoppers who plan to spend the average $683 on high school students can save up to $54 if they spend the money over the tax-free weekend.

South Carolina’s 15th annual sales tax holiday will allow shoppers to save up to 8 percent on a generous list of school supplies – from laptops to new clothes to dorm decor. Shoppers typically save an estimated $3 million during the weekend, the S.C. Department of Revenue has reported.

The sales tax holiday remains popular, despite criticisms. Businesses are allowed to suspend collection of the 6 percent state sales tax and any local sales taxes – which could increase the savings to 8 percent – on covered items.

Shoppers are likely to favor specialty retailers this year, according to the retail federation survey, conducted on nearly 6,200 respondents earlier this month.

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