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Customers take advantage of tax free holiday

Tax free incentive keeps retailers smiling

POSTED: August 4, 2008 5:00 a.m.
SARA GUEVARA/ The Times

Maria Cruz Mondragon, left, of Flowery Branch shops for dresses at Ross Dress For Less Thursday with her daughter, Linda Acevedo, 16, a junior at West Hall High School.

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A sign welcoming shoppers to Lakeshore Mall on Thursday proclaimed "Save it for your tank!"

Retailers say they are hoping customers won’t let gloomy economic forecasts and high gas prices deter them from plunking down dollars for school supplies, clothing and other items during Georgia’s four-day sales tax holiday that began Thursday.

Renee Gerrell of the Dress Code on Pearl Nix Parkway said that nearly one-third of her business last year came during the four-day holiday.

"That’s how crazy it gets," she said. "... Everybody we are related to or (has) known us for more than a year gets recruited to come and help."

Customers say they appreciate the break they get at the cash register but, because of stiff economic times, are more aware of their purchases.

Cristy Carey of Flowery Branch, buying for a fourth-grader and a 10th-grader at North Georgia Christian School in Gainesville, is one such frugal parent.

"We’re getting less stuff and washing more," she said.

The sales tax holiday stems from legislation that provides an exemption from state and local sales taxes for items popularly bought before the school year.

In Hall County, shoppers pay 7 cents on the dollar in state and local taxes.

The holiday ends Sunday. House Bill 948, passed this year, also provides an exemption Oct. 2-5 for certain energy and water-efficient products.

Carey said she is thankful for saving wherever possible.

"We have saved everything to buy now," she said.

Deborah Busic of Clarkesville said she appreciates the sales tax holiday, but wonders if some larger stores don’t lower prices as much knowing that the tax exemption will bring in customers regardless.

"A lot of times you can just do better with a regular sale," she said.

Stephanie Landman, with three of her five children in tow at the Finish Line at Lakeshore Mall, said she also enjoys saving money, but wouldn’t necessarily chase down every sale during the weekend.

"As long as there are not a lot of crowds out, I would take advantage of it, basically," she said.

Misty Gay, manager of Shoe Show on Pearl Nix Parkway, said her store is extending hours and bringing in extra workers to prepare for a potentially big weekend.

To boost sales, the store is promoting a buy-one-pair, get-one-pair-half-off sale.

"We’re just doing a little extra stuff to get people in here," Gay said.

The holiday is good for shoppers and retailers, she said.

"You’ve got people out there who try to work and can’t make ends meet," Gay said. "I know here we run into single moms with three or four children, and that $20 (savings) at the end — it’s kind of like getting a free shoe."

A close neighbor on Pearl Nix, Lancaster Music, is advertising a tax break for shoppers — even though its merchandise doesn’t qualify for the exemption.

Brant Barron, sales manager at the store, said that’s unfortunate for the buying public, especially as many of the items they carry are required for school music programs — from band books to instrument reeds.

"They’re out shopping anyway," he said. "They might as well pull in here and purchase from us as well — do all the shopping for school in one day or one weekend."



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