Parents snap up tax-free deals
Aug 03, 2012 (The Orlando Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Parents began streaming into Central Florida malls and stores Friday in search of deals during the state's sales-tax free holiday that runs until midnight Sunday.
"Anytime you can save money these days, it's good," said Heather Poling of College Park, who was shopping for school supplies with her two young children at the Princeton Street Wal-mart.
During the holiday, shoppers will pay no sales taxes on most school supplies that sell for $15 or less. Clothing, footwear and some accessories that cost $75 or less are exempt. The tax break goes for many types of clothing, not just children's.
Stores are expected to increase staffing between 20 and 25 percent in anticipation of additional crowds this weekend, according to the Florida Retail Federation.
And the National Retail Federation is predicting a big jump in back to school spending this year. It expects the average person with children in school to spend $688.62, up from $603.63 last year, with total spending to reach $30.3 billion.
Still, the federation expects parents will shop for the best deals. Almost 85 percent of consumers say the economy will affect their back-to-school shopping. More than half said they will seek out sales more often and 32 percent said they would comparison shop online.
Kelli Cable of Maitland found some great deals Friday at Altamonte Mall for her son Jacob, 17.
Hollister was selling $10 T-shirts. Aeropostale hawked a buy-one-get-two-free special on graphic T-shirts.
"They seem to have really, really good deals on tax-free days," Cable said.
Cable arranged to take a two-hour lunch break from her nearby office-manager job so she could get shopping done. Cable didn't want to wait until the weekend because she feared early-bird shoppers would snatch up the best merchandise.
She was among one of many parents who jammed the mall lugging bags from Hollister, JCPenney and Stride Rite.
And it's not just the sales tax that shoppers are saving.
Sales included up to 40 percent off at Gymboree and buy one, get one free denim at PacSun. Stride Rite was packed with parents taking advantage of its buy one get one half off special.
Sears this weekend is offering 50 percent off many items. AtKohl's, many clothes are between 45 and 55 percent off. On Sunday, shoppers can snatch up glue for a penny and notebook paper for 25 cents at Office Depot.
Laura Stresen-Reuter, a teachers' assistant from Longwood, prefers to stay away from the crowds and get the best deals by clipping coupons.
Still, her husband convinced her to venture out to Altamonte Mall after he saw $10 denim jeans at the Childrens Place. "He was like, 'You have to go get those jeans,'" she said.
But to Amber McClure of Longwood, a self-described "coupon freak," said the discounts didn't seem as good as last year.
McClure stocked up on office supplies at OfficeMax in Altamonte Springs but was disappointed she didn't find bargains such as the 10-cent notebook paper of last year.
She did get a $10 off $50 coupon from Old Navy printed out with her receipt.
"I was like, 'Sweet,'" she said. "I have to do clothes anyway."
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