Florida Shoppers/Retailers Love Tax Holiday

Aug 3, 2012

Many Florida stores and malls will be busier than usual this weekend.  Tom Flanigan reports shoppers will be taking advantage of the state’s very popular sales tax holiday, a holiday that almost didn’t happen this year.

Michelle Woodyard is a happy, but cash-strapped, mother of two rapidly growing teenage boys.

“I drop hundreds of dollars every summer for new clothes.  Unfortunately, that’s the society we live in.  Kids are judged by the clothes that they wear. by their peers.  They’re judged by the brands and the names.  There’s no more shopping at WalMart for me.  It’s got to be the Nikes, it has to be the Addidas and the name brand clothes.”

Which is why Woodyard, and millions of other Florida shoppers, have been so looking forward to this weekend.

“I prefer to shop during the sales-tax-free because it’s cheaper.  Any penny that I can save works for me.”

This Friday, Saturday and Sunday, shoppers in Florida will see their clothing and school supply purchase prices shaved by at least six and as much as eight percent.  There will be no sales taxes charged on a long list of qualified merchandise.  At the Kohl’s Store less than two miles from the State Capitol, the parking lot was full and the cash registers humming by Friday afternoon.  Store manager Steve Weylan says a lot of clothing is moving out the door, but...

“What we see even more of is the shoes.  Everybody’s coming out to get the shoes.  They get that additional savings – sales tax savings – so it really drives in even more value than what we already offer.”

Weylan says he’s bringing in every one of his employees to help with the weekend rush.   John Fleming with the Florida Retail Federation says Weylan’s isn’t the only store that’s bringing all hands on deck.

“We’re expecting the average retailer to boost their staffing levels by about twenty-to twenty-five percent just to handle the shoppers looking for tax breaks.”

Florida started yearly sales tax holidays in 1998.  In the beginning, they lasted for nine days.  The holidays were suspended in 2008 and 2009 because of the recession, but returned as three-day events two years ago.  Florida lawmakers briefly considered putting the holiday on hold again this year because of yet another billion-dollar-plus budget hole.  State tax collectors say the holiday costs state government nearly twenty-six million dollars in revenue.  Local governments with local option sales taxes lose about six-million tax dollars.  The event’s terrific popularity with shoppers and retailers carried the day, though.  And the Retail Federation’s John Fleming says the idea has now spread to a neighboring state;  Georgia.

“They’re actually doing theirs the weekend after.  It’s on August tenth and August eleventh.  And theirs is different in that they are giving you a tax exemption on computers of up to $1000.  That’s something that we don’t have in Florida.”

Fleming says that could prompt some Florida shoppers, especially in the north part of the state, to do at least some of their back-to-school shopping in the Peach State.  So Fleming says Florida’s retailers would favor adding that exemption to the tax-free holiday shopping list along with the pencils, protractors and composition books.

“Digital learning is really the wave of the future.  It’s here now, so why wouldn’t you exempt computers as something that you need to buy during the back-to-school season, because we see a lot of families that are buying that already.”

Kohl’s Steve Weylan says there’s another change retailers would like to see.

“I think it would be so much more convenient and easier if it were a longer period.  The three days I feel really rushes the customer in.  It kind of forces the customer to come in for a short period of time.   A lot of people are still on vacation, a lot of people are still saving up that back-to school money.  They want to get a couple more paychecks in before they spend.”

That sounds like a good idea to back-to-school shopper Michelle Woodyard.

“By the end of the school year, I am saving for the next round of school clothes.”

In the meantime, she says she’s happy with any savings she can get.