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West Virginia Tax-free holiday a good deal

Merchants and shoppers agree that the state's weekend of tax-free shopping on back-to-school items was a good idea.

Merchants and shoppers agree that the state's weekend of tax-free shopping on back-to-school items was a good idea.

August 05, 2002|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - As West Virginia's first-ever tax-exemption weekend wound down, stores at the Martinsburg Mall had glowing reviews.

Sales at B. Moss were up at least 40 percent on Friday and about the same amount on Saturday, manager Deborah Michael said Sunday, just before the mall closed.

J.C. Penney enjoyed its third-best Saturday in the 10 years it has been at the mall, said senior customer service specialist Joyce Poffenberger.

Also, it was the store's fourth- or fifth-best weekend over that period, Poffenberger said.

Saturday was "very nicely insane," said Kathie Martz, the manager at Payless ShoeSource.

From Friday to Sunday, the state suspended its 6-percent sales tax on clothing, shoes and school supplies, an economic stimulation tactic that other states use. Back-to-school items worth less than $100 apiece were eligible.

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Gov. Bob Wise promoted the exemption weekend during a visit to the mall Wednesday. He said it could cost the state about $1 million in tax revenue, which could be offset if businesses pay higher taxes on increased profits.

Poffenberger said she noticed "a lot of Maryland" residents in her store over the weekend.

In 2001, Maryland had a week without sales tax for back-to-school shopping, but did not renew it this year.

Michael said the shoppers at B. Moss were excited about the savings; several put items on layaway.

"Every penny helps things," she said.

Good back-to-school discounts, combined with the exemption, led to sales that were up 140 percent from the same weekend last year, Poffenberger said.

"Let's do it again," she said.

There were only two signs advertising the exemption in the mall when Wise was there Wednesday.

By the weekend, a few more had appeared. J.C. Penney put up a sign advertising the exemption in both English and Spanish.

Martz said the exemption made "a huge difference" for Payless ShoeSource.

Fashion Bug clerks Stephany Branson and Amber Allen said many more people were in their store, too.

Helen Harris of Martinsburg purposely waited until Saturday and Sunday to shop. Her daughter Shana is an eighth-grader at St. Joseph's School and her daughter Shayla is a senior at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va.

Between clothes, shoes and school supplies, Harris guessed she saved about $40 because of the sales-tax exemption.

Two other children - Andy, 16, who is going into 11th grade, and Rachel, 18, who will be a freshman at Shepherd College in Shepherdstown, W.Va. - were not with their mother.

Carolyn Franklin of Charles Town, W.Va., expected to shop right until the deadline.

Franklin perused the notebook and loose-leaf paper aisle at Wal-Mart with daughter Emily, 6, who is going into first grade, and daughter Tara, 14, who is going into ninth grade.

Carolyn Franklin said Sunday afternoon that she had spent about $200 so far and planned to spend about $100 more.

But not right away.

She was going to take a break in the evening and see a movie with her children, then come back and shop until midnight - when the exemption weekend ended.

"We wait until the last minute. We don't want to think about school," Carolyn Franklin said.

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