This year’s back-to-school tax holiday, conducted last Friday and Saturday, was a day shorter than the one in 2009, the last one the state conducted.
According to the National Retail Federation, shoppers are expected to spend nearly $84 billion on school supplies this year. Along with Christmas and Black Friday, back-to-school is one of the biggest spending times of the year. NRF reports that parents will spend an average of $688.62 on clothes, electronics and school supplies, an increase of nearly $85 from 2011.
That’s great news for retailers such as Marietta-based The School Box, which sells teacher supplies for public, private and home-school teachers in 15 locations throughout Georgia and two in Tennessee.
“Overall, we had a very strong Friday and Saturday throughout our Georgia stores,” said David Persson, president and CEO of The School Box. “This back-to-school season started out a little delayed for us, as shoppers seemed to be waiting longer to make their purchases. This year’s tax holiday came three days before most schools had their first day of class, so those last-minute shoppers benefited from this savings.”
While the delay in spending worried Persson, the retailer made up “quite a bit” of ground over that weekend. Customer counts throughout its Georgia stores were up 40 percent Friday and Saturday as compared to the same two days last year. Overall, sales among its Georgia stores were up 45 percent over the previous time last year.
In addition to traditional notebook paper, crayons and pencils, popular items at The School Box included things such as handwriting practice paper, primary composition books, triangle pencils, rest mats for kindergarten and left-handed scissors.
“This is our peak season, so it was better for me to compare against last August rather than an average weekend,” he said.
In addition, The School Box reported that the average transaction total was only up about $1, meaning the stores benefited from an influx of customers rather than higher spending, Persson said.
Kay Bell, contributing tax editor for Bankrate.com, said the tax-free weekend should be viewed as a positive for retailers and consumers, as it likely drew more people into stores.
“That’s always a plus, especially in this day when so many shoppers go online for convenience and the possibility of not facing sales tax charges on those transactions,” Bell said.
There is another reason, too. “Consumers also like bargains,” Bell said. “Many stores probably offered special deals on tax-exempt items, so that meant picking up goods they wanted or needed was great, with the icing on the shopping cake being not owing the state tax collector some money.”
Bell said the fact that Georgia’s sales tax holiday is back may be a reflection state lawmakers feel the state’s finances are a bit more secure.
“Typically, states discontinue the holidays when legislators believe that they can’t afford to forgo the sales tax money,” she said. “If that fiscal stability is indeed the case, that’s good news for Georgia residents on two counts, the state’s treasury and their personal bottom lines are a bit better off thanks to the sales tax holiday savings.”
Georgia lawmakers first approved the tax holiday in 2002 as a four-day weekend. In 2010, the state Legislature stopped the eight-year tradition to save the estimated $12 million in lost revenue, and Gov. Nathan Deal reinstated it for this year.
Michael J. Pallerino has reported on business news for magazines and newspapers in the Atlanta area for more than 20 years.