Shoppers turn out for sales-tax savings

MA_01A

Midstate shoppers turn out for sales-tax savings

By Carl Lewis

clewis@macon.com

Friday, Jul. 31, 2009

 

Ready, set, shop. It’s a sales-tax holiday.

The four-day sales-tax holiday kicked off Thursday, and many area stores saw crammed parking lots and congested shopping aisles as a result.

So far, in 2009, retail sales nationwide have dropped about 5 percent, said John Heavener, president of the Georgia Retail Association. But in Georgia, numbers could be better than in other states because of this weekend’s sales tax holiday, which promises to lure in cash-strapped consumers who might not otherwise make purchases.

“We believe that with the combination of strong discounts and the sales-tax holiday, Georgia can stay above the national retail average,” Heavener said.

It’s still early in the weekend, but area stores are bracing for the best, too.

Retailers such as Wal-Mart, Target and those in the Macon Mall said they expect to see full parking lots Saturday and Sunday.

Already, before the end of the workweek, some stores have noticed a frenzy of consumers reaping the discounts of the holiday.

At the Best Buy store on Presidential Parkway in Macon, hordes of shoppers came out Thursday to save money on high-ticket computers and accessories.

“We’ve seen a lot more customers than usual,” said store manager Eli Douglass. “We haven’t seen this amount of people in a while.”

One of those customers, Patricia Adams, bought a new laptop which she plans to use to communicate with her son, who is a Marine deployed in Afghanistan.

“I’ve been needing a computer so I can e-mail him, but I’ve been holding out to buy it until this weekend,” she said. “Now I’ll feel a little closer to him while he’s overseas.”

At Staples, back-to-school shoppers such as Adrienne Bershinski, took advantage of the sales-tax break to stock up on supplies.

“I’m on a tight budget lately, so I figured I’d get my school shopping out of the way when I can avoid the extra tax,” said Bershinski, who starts class at Mercer University’s Walter F. George School of Law next month.

Clothing qualifies for the sales-tax holiday, too, and many area department stores have made the necessary preparations for the weekend.

At the Kohl’s on Watson Boulevard in Warner Robins, 20 extra employees will be on hand to handle the spike in traffic, manager Derek Meredith said.

“We’re expecting a lot more shoppers, especially in the clothing and shoes departments,” Meredith said.

At the Target in Macon on Thursday, Peche Ellis, of Griffin, was one of the first of those shoppers. She filled her cart with new blouses and dresses for fall.

“I only meant to buy one dress coming in here. But after seeing what better deals I can get, I’m buying a lot more than I expected,” she said.

The tax-free weekend will last through Sunday. Only school supplies, clothing and certain electronics qualify.

To contact writer Carl Lewis, call 744-4347.