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Savvy Consumer: Time to prepare for sales tax holiday

07/26/2013 1:25 PM

08/09/2013 2:34 PM

It’s time to start preparing those school supply lists. The state’s sales tax holiday has been pushed ahead a week this year and retailers are getting ready.

This year’s sales tax holiday will run from Aug. 9-11, a full week earlier than in previous years because of a change in the law led by state Sen. Rodney Ellis, a Houston Democrat.

Ellis said he wanted the weekend moved up because some campuses in the Houston area will start school earlier this year and the later sales tax date conflicted with the Dallas apparel market for August, when many small retailers buy inventory for the next season.

“SB 485 alleviated the burden of this tough decision for these retailers,” he said. “Furthermore, it will give consumers more time to shop for their students.”

This year, Texans will save an estimated $78.9 million, or eight percent more than last year, because of the sales tax savings, said R.J. DeSilva, spokesman for the Texas Comptroller.

“With a growing Texas population, there would be more people taking advantage of this year’s sales tax holiday weekend, hence the higher estimated savings,” he said.

The predicted growth in sales in Texas flies against the national estimate by the National Retail Federation, however. This year, the NRF said the second-largest buying season of the year will actually be down after a record-breaking year in 2012.

“Instead of spending on the newest gadgets, shoppers are looking for ways to get the most for their money by looking for deals as well as reusing already owned items before purchasing new ones,” said Rojeh Avanesian, senior vice president of marketing and sales at PriceGrabber, an online comparative shopping site.

Families with school-age children are expected to spend an average $634.78 on apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics, down from $688.62 last year, according to the NRF. Total spending on back-to-school is expected to reach $26.7 billion.

There are no changes this year to the list of school items available for tax exemption, which includes some items non-school-related things like diapers and baby clothes, along with uniforms for waitresses and many professions. The law exempts most clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks priced under $100 from sales tax. For a complete list of the school supplies and clothing items, go to the comptroller’s website,

Retailers are already gearing up for the shopping season. Wal-Mart started its back to school promotion this week stating it has 250 school items under $1 and free shipping on school uniforms and supplies on its website. The retailer also posted individual school lists at Most Arlington public schools had their lists posted there, as well as many Fort Worth schools.

OfficeMax announced a one-cent deal on many of its backpacks and messenger bags until Aug. 3. If you buy the bag upfront, you will get all but a penny back in bonus rewards for other purchases. Target also had backpacks and school supplies on sale this week.

A PriceGrabber survey said 50 percent of shoppers plan to go to a discount store to shop and local resale stores are getting prepared for the back-to-school crowd. Plato’s Closet, a popular brand-name resale shop in Fort Worth and Arlington, has all clearance items 70 percent off, said Hannah Teddlie, manager of the Fort Worth store.

“We still have quite a bit left,” she said. “During the sales tax holiday, we will have a lot of traffic.”

Clothes from Forever 21, American Eagle, Aeropostale and other mall retailers are heavily discounted at the store. A pair of Miss Me jeans, for example, could cost as much as $200 at the mall, but run $50 at Plato’s Closet, Teddlie said.

Goodwill Industries of Fort Worth will have a 50 percent sale on clothing tagged with a purple card during the sales tax weekend, said Rosemary Cruz, vice president of retail and donated goods for the nonprofit.

“Our color tag sales generally include 30-40 percent of our floor inventory,” she said.

Shopping is heavy at the 19 Goodwill stores in Tarrant County during the sales tax weekend, Cruz said.

“We do get a lot of people in the stores, especially younger people” she said. “They like to be able to put their own look together and create their own style, whether it’s retro, funky, preppy. We definitely have something for everyone.”

Prices are around $1 for most items, Cruz said, and 93 cents of every $1 goes to mission services.

“So you’re also helping someplace else when you shop,” she said.

Teresa McUsic’s column appears Saturdays. 

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