Gail Funderburg of Augusta already knew her first stop during the sales tax holiday.
She was one of the first shoppers at Kmart on Washington Road on Thursday morning, taking her grandchildren, Kelci, 8, and Rachel, 6, shopping for school supplies.
"The littlest one had seen a bookbag that she wanted at Kmart. Hannah Montana," Mrs. Funderburg said.
Thursday was the first day of a four-day sales tax holiday in Georgia, an exemption from state and local sales taxes for clothing, personal computers and general school supplies. It ends at midnight Sunday.
James Klugh, the Kmart store manager, said the tax holiday is one of the store's biggest shopping seasons.
"Back-to-school is bigger than it used to be because of the requirements the kids have to have for school. It's become an event. We spend millions of dollars getting ready for it. We used to grab a notebook or an Army (surplus) store backpack, but now you have the school lists so it's become a seasonal event. We have sold so many bookbags, it's just unbelievable," Mr. Klugh said.
South Carolina will have its sales tax holiday Aug. 7-9.
Peachmac in Martinez had 50 to 60 customers waiting in line an hour before the store opened Thursday, owner Darryl Peck said.
Dianne Wisner drove from Atlanta for the sale. Her nephew Brian Stewart lives in Augusta and was helping her select a new computer.
"I've been wanting a new laptop, and I wanted to get a Mac but the price has been prohibitive," she said. "But with the sales tax weekend, it makes it more affordable."
Paul Rush, a junior at Mercer University, bought a new computer and got a free printer.
"I was having computer trouble this week, and I found the sales tax (holiday) was this weekend. I figured it was a good time to save some money," he said.
Kelle Stone, the assistant manager at Old Navy on Robert C. Daniel Jr. Parkway, said traffic was steady early Thursday.
"The hottest thing is the kids' section. We're seeing a lot of khakis and polos fly out," she said.
Heather Scott, of Augusta, didn't realize the sales tax holiday started Thursday. She was buying school uniforms for her four children.
"I was pleasantly surprised. I really wasn't going to come because of the crowds. I was getting a lot of my stuff done before it," Mrs. Scott said.
She plans to spend about the same as last year.
"There's nothing you can really do to spend less when you've got a list," she said.
Reach LaTina Emerson at (706) 823-3227 or email@example.com.
SALES TAX HOLIDAY
- Georgia's sales tax holiday lasts until Sunday at midnight.
- In South Carolina customers can shop tax free 12:01 a.m. Aug. 7 through midnight Aug. 9.
Families are expected to spend 8 percent less on back-to-school, including everything from new shoes to dorm room gear, the National Retail Federation forecasts. It expects total spending of $47.5 billion.
Stores are banking on a longer shopping season -- most back to school merchandise was on store shelves by mid-July, similar to last year, but this year Labor Day falls one week later. And many will keep back-to-school products on shelves through September, particularly clothing retailers, rather than clearing out items after Labor Day.