Shoppers heading to the Albany Mall this weekend will get to take advantage of the Georgia sales tax holiday on items like clothing, footwear, computers and other school supplies. (Staff photo: Brad McEwen)
ALBANY — Retailers are preparing to handle an expected increase in crowds during this weekend’s sales tax-free holiday, which allows residents to receive a tax break on back-to-school items such as supplies, computers and clothing in advance of the new school year.
The tax holiday is slated to begin at 12:01 a.m. Friday and conclude at midnight Saturday. During this period, certain items purchased by shoppers will be exempt from the 4 percent Georgia sales tax and any other local sales taxes.
Because of the savings potential, many business experts — including Taylor Byrd, executive director of the Georgia Retail Association — believe retailers will see increased store traffic during the tax holiday.
“Everyone loves a tax break,” Byrd said Tuesday in a statement. “Georgia families enjoy the sales tax holiday and retailers usually enjoy a nice increase in store traffic. The increase in business is good for our economy.”
The GRA estimates that statewide spending during the weekend will reach close to $2 billion and that families with children in grades K-12 will spend an average of close to $670 on apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics.
The expected traffic and sales potential has many area retailers taking steps to be ready for crowds and to ensure that the shoppers have a good experience.
“It’s a very busy weekend for us,” said Jeremy Campbell, assistant manager at Target in Albany. “We usually see an increase in overall sales. To get ready for the holiday, we make sure we’re fully stocked on everything in the store and make sure things are neat and look good.”
Campbell said that while the start of the school year will bring many into the store looking for those items, the general public, regardless of whether they have school age children, will also come in to take advantage of the tax-free deals.
To handle the customers’ needs, Campbell said the store is planning to increase staff for those days and they have already made sure store employees are aware of what items qualify for the exemptions. The store is also prepared to provide a list of tax-exempt items to shoppers as well.
“We want to let the customers know what’s available,” Campbell said. “We want employees to know as well. We want to make sure they’re knowledgeable.”
To help retailers and shoppers, the Georgia Department of Revenue has issued guidelines around the holiday and stating what items will be eligible for the exemption.
Items that qualify include:
— Clothing and footwear with a sales price of $100 or less per item;
— Computers, computer components and pre-written computer software purchased for noncommercial home or personal use with a sales price of $1,000 or less per item;
— School supplies, school art supplies, school computer supplies, and school instructional materials purchased for noncommercial use with a sales price of $20 or less per item.
Items that do not qualify for the exemption include belt buckles sold separately; costume masks sold separately; patches and emblems sold separately; sewing equipment and supplies, including but not limited to knitting needles, patterns, pins, scissors, sewing machines, sewing needles, tape measures, and thimbles; sewing materials that become part of clothing, including but not limited to buttons, fabric, lace, thread, yarn, and zippers; clothing accessories or equipment, and cellular telephones.
While not all the stores inside the Albany Mall carry items that qualify for tax exemption, Debra Rowe, who handles media relations for the mall, said she expects more traffic overall because many stores will be affected.
“There is generally more traffic,” Rowe said. “A lot of our stores are affected. I don’t for certain (about this year), but in the past many of the stores have been known to have extended hours.”
Rowe said even without the tax holiday this weekend, which is the last before the new school year starts, is typically busy for the mall. In fact, Rowe said the mall is organizing a back to school fashion show Saturday at 1 p.m. in conjunction with the expected weekend traffic.
In addition to this weekend’s tax holiday, Georgia shoppers can again take advantage of sales tax relief in October when the state will offer exemptions on certain Energy Star Qualified and WaterSense appliance products.