Retailers Expect Big Business During Tax Holiday

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The three-day sales-tax holiday on school supplies and school apparel begins at 12:01 a.m. Friday and retailers are bracing for the increase in foot traffic.

Last year’s tax holiday at the Kohl’s department store  at The Shops at Boardman Park was “kind of like Christmas, the day after Thanksgiving,” said assistant manager Jeff Downey. “We’re expecting a busy weekend.”

“Yes, absolutely, quite a lot,” said the OfficeMax customer service manager Mike Gura, also at The Shops at Boardman Park. “I can’t quantify how much but, yes, we had [increased] sales.”

Also expecting a busy Friday, Saturday and Sunday is Sharon Blumental, owner of The Supplyroom in Liberty Township. Most of her customers during this fourth tax-holiday weekend will be teachers. While open to the public, “at this time of year, it’s mostly teachers we see,” Blumental says.

“The public doesn’t see how much they spend out of their own pockets,” the owner said, especially on classroom decorations.

The Supplyroom also sells directly to school systems whose purchases are always tax-exempt. Some school systems reimburse their teachers for the supplies and decorations they buy on their own, Blumental says, but rarely make them whole. More common is a small allocation the teachers share.

The Target store in Boardman advertised school supplies and clothing for back to school in its weekly flyer, the manager said. He declined comment on how much last year’s tax holiday increased sales because he wasn’t here.

In approaching the retailers who sell school supplies and clothing, The Business Journal learned few are offering additional incentives to the weekly promotions and sales they schedule.

The Staples office supply store in Boardman, however, was aware of the tax holiday and this week is promoting school supplies such as mechanical pencils, Bic and Paper Mate ballpoint pens, pencil sharpeners and pencil-cap erasers, said manager Angela Boyd. The prices of all have been lowered this week.

The tax holiday last year resulted in a spike in traffic. “It was pretty good,” Boyd said.

Efforts to learn what national chain stores such as Dillard’s, J.C. Penney and Dick’s Sporting Goods led to local management directing inquiries to their corporate communications offices. Dick’s instructs reporters to leave a recorded message about the subject of their inquiries and promises to respond within 48 hours.

So the near-immediate response by Macy’s spokeswoman Andrea Schwartz in Chicago was unusual. With classes at many colleges and universities scheduled to begin before public schools open, Macy’s is promoting dormitory room decorations and bedding as well as school apparel, Schwartz said.

The sales-tax holiday should boost traffic in Macy’s stores in Ohio as it did last year, she said, but declined to say how much.

The tax holiday, the fourth allowed by the state Legislature, runs through 11:59 p.m. Sunday and includes sales of school supplies that cost $20 or less per item and most clothing that costs $75 or less per item. The sales encompass purchases made at bricks-and-mortar stores and online.

Some exclusions apply. And the state won’t allow shoppers to qualify for the break by buying items that cost more than $75 usually sold in multiples in separate transactions. So if a parent wants to buy a pair of shoes that cost $85, he can’t buy one for $42.50 and then the second for another $42.50.

If the retailer offers a BOGO – buy one, get one – and the first item exceeds $75 but is less than $150, the shopper cannot evade the tax by offering to pay half price in two transactions for the items.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.