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Tax-free weekend boosts downtown Gainesville boutiques
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Jessie Morton and Terri Moret shop at District Clothing Co. on Saturday on the square in Gainesville. Many were out for back-to-school shopping Saturday, taking advantage of tax-free weekend. - photo by Erin O. Smith

With the new school year only days away, businesses all along the downtown Gainesville square were flooded by shoppers this weekend, many of them in search of stylish deals provided by Georgia’s sales tax holidays, held Saturday and Sunday.

Throughout the weekend boutiques and shops like Dress Up, District 101, Image and J.R. Crider’s had their hands full helping people of all ages find new clothes for school and work.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Hailey Pugh, a sales associate at Dress Up Boutique. Pugh was one of the many Dress Up employees that worked all day Saturday, on what they consider to be one of their busiest days of the year.

“As one of the most trafficked stores, we see a lot of people throughout the week. But this weekend we saw all of our favorite customers, plus a ton more people,” Pugh said.

She says that they haven’t looked at exactly how well the business did over the weekend yet, but that a large majority of their inventory had been sold out on Saturday.

But even some smaller stores on the square saw a big bump in sales and customer interest over the weekend. Some stores like District Clothing Co. used additional sales above and beyond the tax-free days to draw people in. Janet Watkins, a veteran employee at District Clothing Co., said that by mid-day Saturday, the small corner store had seen more than 50 additional customers and that they had made nearly a dozen sales above the normal Saturday average.

“Actually, it’s been pretty good with our sale going on. A lot more than we expected for (Saturday),” Watkins said.      

She said that normally the shop only staffs one employee on weekend days, but that in preparation for the busy days, they had added another employee.

J.R Crider’s Clothing and Apparel, another clothing shop off the square, decided to go a different route, ignoring the tax-free weekend and instead doing a “Christmas in July” sale that offered 25 percent and 40 percent off on a variety of items.

But beyond boutiques and clothing shops on the square, other businesses and restaurants did not fare so well.

According to employees at Inman Perk, business through the weekend was unaffected by the shopping frenzy, and if Avocados Restaurant co-owner Albert Lunalover is right, the tax-free weekend may have actually hurt his sales.

“Yesterday for lunch was slow, abnormally so, even today too,” said Lunalover from the almost empty dining room of his downtown restaurant on Sunday.  

Lunalover reasoned that even though people were out in the square all day, many may have been reluctant to spend more money on dining out after shopping for clothes.

“Hopefully the stores did OK, though,” Lunalover said.