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Thrifty shoppers ring up sales during start of tax-free shopping week

August 11, 2013|By HOLLY SHOK | holly.shok@herald-mail.com
  • Nathan Egupov, 8, and his mother, Jennifer Egupov, look for back-to- school clothes Sunday at J.C. Penney in Valley Mall during the first day of Maryland's tax-free shopping week.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

HALFWAY — They were reminded Sunday that shopping is not one of their favorite pastimes.

Not by a longshot.

“I don’t enjoy shopping at all — I don’t want to be here,” joked 43-year-old Woody Williamson, his hands clutching plastic hangers attached to blue gym shorts at Valley Mall in Halfway.

Nevertheless, Williamson’s 12-year-old son, Tyler, who starts seventh grade Aug. 19 at Spring Mills Middle School in Berkeley County, W.Va., needed a few clothing essentials and, most importantly, a new pair of Nike “Lebron” sneakers.

So there was no time like Sunday — the start of Maryland’s tax-free week — for the Falling Waters W.Va., father-son duo to bite the bullet. And admittedly, Williamson said, the tax-free savings took the edge off the dreaded annual errand.

From Sunday through Saturday, Maryland will not collect its 6 percent sales tax on clothing items and shoes that cost less than $100 — an act that sets the state back $5 million in tax revenue, according to Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot.

Brian Paulsen, J.C. Penney store leader at the Valley Mall, said the retailer will have extended hours on certain days this week to promote back-to-school and tax-free shopping.

According to Paulsen, the state’s tax-free week, which generates between 30 percent and 50 percent more revenue for a retailer, can be as profitable a shopping week for the local J.C. Penney as the week before Thanksgiving. Coupled with back-to-school shopping, a tax-free week can generate a 40 percent to 50 percent sales gain, he said.

“It represents our customer. They like to save,” Paulsen said of the shopping boom during tax-break days.

Along with tax savings, J.C. Penney on Sunday was promoting sales like $10 off $50 purchases, $15 off $75 purchases and $20 off $100 purchases.

Diane Twigg of Hedgesville, W.Va., had two high-schoolers, a middle-schooler and one elementary school student to shop for on Sunday.

With a spending cap of $500, Twigg, 39, said tax-free week will help lessen the cost of back-to-school apparel purchases for her four children.

“Basically what they need to start in to get them through the first couple months,” Twigg said of the essential purchases she makes, noting the $500 limit she observes also must cover school supplies and backpacks.

Smithsburg resident Jennifer Egupov, 35, had one less child than Twigg for which to shop, though she isn’t in the habit of consciously setting a spending limit.

“(I) let them pick out an outfit or two,” Egupov said, “or three or four,” she added as she eyed her 8-year-old son’s haul of skateboarding-themed apparel.

Egupov said she takes each of her three children individually on a back-to-school shopping trip, and while she didn’t set out with her third-grader specifically for the tax-free week kickoff Sunday, the savings were appreciated.

Tyler Hannah, 30, of Kane, Pa., was visiting a friend in Hagerstown when he learned of the tax-free week and set out for Valley Mall to shop for shoes.

“It’s really hard to make ends meet ... when you’re shopping for school, a tax-free savings makes a big impact,” Hannah said of families with two and three children. 

The National Retail Federation reported that this year, the average person with children in grade school is expected to spend $634.78 on apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics, down from $688.62 last year, according to a news release from the Maryland Retailers Association.

The state’s tax-free week stems from legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2007 and implemented in 2010.

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