Stores on both sides of the Savannah River were busy Friday with back-to-school shoppers looking to save big during this weekend’s sales tax holiday.
“I think for businesses, it’s great because it’s less headache trying to compete,” said Bobbie Lee, co-owner of the AGC Training Center and Teacher Supply Store in Martinez. “But for consumers, they’re going to have to decide. They’re going to have to really know where the better deals are and stick with that state.”
This year’s sales tax holiday fell on the same weekend in both Georgia and South Carolina. It runs through Saturday in Georgia and extends into Sunday in South Carolina.
In previous years the sales tax exemption, an extra incentive for back-to-school shopping, has been held a week later in Georgia than in South Carolina. The later date has caused a headache in the past for some consumers in the Peach State who’d already started back school.
“I think it’ll even out,” said Denise Littles, assistant store manager at Kmart in North Augusta. “They were out here at 8 o’clock this morning.”
At Lee’s store on Bobby Jones Expressway, the sales tax holiday brings more parents into the store looking to buy supplies, but noted that teachers have been shopping there for weeks. Only certain materials in the store, mainly the office supplies, fall into the “sales tax-free category.”
To prepare for the back-to-school seasonal rush, Lee extended the store’s hours last week and added more staff to work the floor.
Judy Mitchell, a day-care provider and mother of five, had stopped by the business Friday to buy for her day-care children. Mitchell said she planned to shop more this weekend after she knew her own children’s school supply requirements.
“Absolutely,” she said. “It saves. When you’ve got more than one child, it really helps you out.”
Westminster junior Caroline Head, who resumes classes Thursday , was shopping Friday at the Best Buy store in Augusta for a laptop she could use both for schoolwork and to pursue her interest in photography. Head, on the yearbook staff at Westminster, said she needed a new computer that was compatible with software from school.
She and her mother, Sharon, also were browsing tablets for the 16-year-old’s twin brother at the electronics store. The pair was headed to Staples later that day to pick up the remaining supplies on her school list.
“It was a lot more inconvenient to do that last year,” said Caroline Head, who’d already started back school before Georgia’s sales tax holiday last year.
The computer section at Best Buy was a popular spot Friday for shoppers looking to score big on an 8 percent tax break.
Deborah Simmons and son Carlos, entering the 10th grade at Midland Valley High School, scoured Dell laptops for a device the two could share. Deborah Simmons said there already was a line at the store when they arrived shortly after it opened.
The next stops for Simmons and her son were to the shoe store to pick up new sneakers and Wal-Mart to buy notebooks, a bookbag, pencils and other items on Carlos’ school supply list.
The potential savings, she said, were “worth the wait, worth the lines and worth the hassle.”
The National Retail Federation has projected that combined sales from back-to-school and back-to-college shopping will generate nearly $75 billion into the economy this year. In Georgia, about $2 billion statewide is expected from the event, according to the Georgia Retail Federation.
Across the state border, the South Carolina Department of Revenue estimates shoppers in the Palmetto State will save about $3 million during the three-day sales tax holiday.
Inside the North Augusta Wal-Mart, Tammy Stephens stood in the school supply section viewing her daughter’s seventh-grade classroom list on her smartphone.
The sales tax exemption didn’t draw her out to shop, she said, but it was an added plus.
“It helps,” Stephens said.