Holiday: Stores Gear Up for Tax-Free Weekend
By Tom Embrey
For local retailers, there really is no calm before the storm that is tax-free weekend.
Businesses in Moore County are amassing inventory and stocking shelves as they prepare for what many say is the kickoff to their busy season.
"This is a pretty busy week for us," said Erica Andrews, manager of the Goody's store in Center Park Shopping Center in Aberdeen. "It's not Christmas, but we've got a lot going on right now, and once back to school hits, it seems like it just keeps going right on through the (Christmas) holidays."
Some stores are even having sales leading up to the weekend.
Tax-free weekend offers a break from the 6.75 percent sales tax rate to help families with their back-to-school shopping. The exemptions on certain items go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday and run through 11:59 p.m. Sunday.
Sales and use taxes will not apply to clothing costing $100 or less per item, sports or recreational equipment costing $50 or less per item, computers costing $3,500 or less per item, computer supplies costing $250 or less per item, school supplies costing $100 or less per item, and school instructional materials costing $300 or less per item.
"We have extra inventory especially in our junior's and children's department," Andrews said.
Although the holiday has annually been billed as a "back-to-school" event, anyone can take part because the discounted items include many things that may not appear to be school related.
Ben Haubenreiser, general manager of Stein Mart in Southern Pines, said his store doesn't get crowds as large as others because they don't cater to children and young adults, but he did say the store is anticipating a good weekend.
"We have some new items, and we will have quite a bit of merchandise on sale, too," Haubenreiser said.
North Carolina is one of 18 states offering sales tax holidays this year, up from 16 in 2009, according to the Federation of Tax Administrators.
The N.C. Department of Revenue notes that participation in the tax holiday is mandatory for retailers. Clothing, accessories, jewelry, cosmetics, protective equipment, wallets, furniture, items used in trade or business, and rentals are not covered by the sales-tax exemption.
The upcoming sales tax holiday will be a big help to small businesses still struggling to recover from the economic recession, said Gregg Thompson, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, North Carolina's leading small-business association.
"Our country may be two years into the economic recovery, but small-business owners are still worried, especially when it comes to consumer spending," Thompson said.
Weak sales continue to rank as the No. 1 challenge facing the nation's small businesses, according to NFIB's Small Business Economic Trends Report for July.
"The sales-tax holiday is really going to make a difference, because it's going to help families stretch a dollar," Thompson said. "This is going to put people in the mood to spend, and we're hoping they'll use this opportunity to support the local economy and shop at small businesses."
Small business drives the economy, Thompson said. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses account for 98 percent of all employers in the state and employ almost half of the state's private-sector work force.
"The bottom line is that the more we can encourage people to spend and to shop at small businesses, the more jobs we can save and create, and the faster our economy will get back on track," Thompson said.
Contact Tom Embrey at email@example.com.
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