Ninja Turtle and Frozen backpacks are on the shelves, school supply lists are online and families who don’t mind the madness will be out shopping Friday through Sunday for tax-free weekend.The state comptroller’s office estimates shoppers will save about $82.7 million in state and local taxes this year, up 5 percent from last year’s $78.9 million. Spokesman Kevin Lyons attributed the increase to overall economic growth.The statewide tax holiday, which started in 1999, allows shoppers to purchase most clothing, shoes, school supplies and backpacks under $100 without having to pay sales tax. Savings can add up to about $8 for every $100 spent, based on the average 8.25 percent cities collect for sales tax, according to the comptroller’s office.Online and layaway items are also tax-free as long as they meet the criteria on Texas Comptroller Susan Combs’ website, TexasTaxHoliday.org. The tax-free holiday also extends to shoppers who want to purchase clothes or office supplies for themselves. Several large retailers contacted Wednesday said they are prepared for more shoppers than usual this weekend.Not everyone is into shopping on the special weekend. Arlington mom Autumn Reo said she avoids it.“...While the 10 percent off is great, for my family the benefit is better that I don’t go out in the crowds,” Reo said.Instead, her husband, Chad, uses the opportunity to shop at Allen Premium Outlets for bundles of Ralph Lauren polo shirts for the whole family. “My husband will go to Allen and throw down some cash on polos,” Reo said. “They aren’t trendy, they are classic.”The Reos have a 6-year-old boy and a 3-year-old girl. Autumn Reo said most retailers offer discounts before school starts, so a savvy shopper can save money without shopping during tax-free weekend. She has a blog — Mama Challenge — that offers “real solutions for real moms.”Office Depot spokeswoman Julianne Embry said Office Depot and OfficeMax will have over 1,000 items for $5 or less in store and online. The Office Depot at 4613 S. Hulen Street is selling composition books for 10 cents, spiral notebooks for 25 cents and crayons for 50 cents through Saturday as a part of its weekly promotion. Store employees said pens, pencils and paper sell quickly. The Super Target at 5700 Overton Ridge Blvd. in Fort Worth has a promotion through Saturday in which shoppers will get $5 gift cards for every transaction of $25 or more, said Brittany Watson, executive team leader at the store. She said school uniforms sell fast, but parents don’t need to worry about paper and pencils selling out.A store manager at the Walmart Supercenter at 6300 Oakmont Blvd. said the only item that sells out fast is manila paper. Some of Walmart’s specials include $10 backpacks decorated with popular figures such as the Super Mario Bros. and Barbie, and $5 T-shirts and leggings. The specials are a part of “rollback” pricing for back-to-school shopping and change weekly.The costs add up fast, according to a National Retail Federation infographic on top trends for the 2014-15 school year. This year, Americans are expected to spend $26.5 billion on back-to-school items for kindergarten through high school, the federation reports. College students and their families will spend another $48.4 billion, according to the federation. Twenty-five percent of families will wait until one to two weeks before the start of school to buy supplies. To get started, check school supply lists for the Fort Worth and Arlington school districts posted online. Parents who want to use business credit cards or checks, or buy more than 10 backpacks must present exemption certificates to retailers. To get them, search TexasTaxHoliday.org for exemption certificates, click the first link and scroll to the second page. The certificate can be printed and filled out by whomever is making the purchase.Lyons said the certificate is like a “good faith” effort to show businesses the products are being purchased for the right reasons.
Monica S. Nagy, 817-390-7792 Twitter:@MonicaNagyFWST