Sales-tax holiday brings in business

Jasmine Wilson of Cross looks at blouses Friday in Sears at Citadel Mall. Friday was the first day of the tax-free weekend. Wilson, a rising sophomore and biology major at Coastal Carolina University, expects to spend about $2,000 on a computer and clothe

Jasmine Wilson flipped through a rack of blouses at Sears on Friday, trying to take advantage of South Carolina's tax-free weekend on clothes and other items before heading back to college.

The biology major at Coastal Carolina University estimates she will spend about $2,000 on a computer, clothes, shoes and school supplies before the weekend is over.

"I think it's a great advantage for a student like me because college is so expensive," the 19-year-old Cross resident said of the tax holiday. "It saves me some money, and I like that."

Wilson, with a couple of other purchases in hand from other stores at Citadel Mall, wasn't alone Friday.

Hordes of shoppers descended on merchants for the first of three days of buying many items without having to pay sales tax. It's timed perfectly by the state to coincide with back-to-school purchases, not only to stimulate the retail sector, but also to provide savings to cash-strapped parents and students.

The average family will spend $606.40 on clothes, shoes, supplies and electronics this year for back-to-school items, according to the National Retail Federation. That compares with $548.72 last year and $594.24 in 2008, just before the economic meltdown of financial markets.

In South Carolina, consumers will save about $2.8 million in sales taxes this weekend. That's money that can be used for other items.

Ana Peralta of Goose Creek expected to do just that with her savings.

Shopping at Old Navy, the mother of two had a stack of blue jeans in her cart for her 10-year-old son.

"With all the back-to-school shopping we have to do every year, tax-free is a nice offer," she said.

Peralta plans to spend about $200 on school supplies and clothes and use the savings to take her son to lunch.

Holly Penland of West Ashley chose Tanger Outlet Center in North Charleston to shop for her two children.

"We planned it around my in-laws coming in from Greenville," Penland said of the shopping trip. "It's wonderful."

Her mother-in-law, Anne Penland, said she stayed an extra day just to come to the outlet mall and take advantage of the tax-free weekend. The holiday often includes markdowns to entice shoppers even more, such as those at Gap Outlet, where a long, winding line of customers was ready to check out by midday Friday.

Jamie Jordan of North Charleston chose Walmart for her son's back-to-school supplies, her cart half-full of notebook paper, hand sanitizer, socks, pencils and other classroom needs.

"It's good to save some money," she said.

Sears store manager Chris Caudell said customers were in good spirits, and the Citadel Mall store tagged many items such as school uniforms 40 percent off.

"We are getting a lot of families coming in," she said. "It's a good opportunity for everyone, and we have a lot of summer clearance items."

James Island residents, Amarylis Cranwell and her husband, Jack, bought a comforter at Sears. It didn't qualify for the tax savings, but they bought some socks earlier at T.J. Maxx and planned to shop more for their daughter at other stores.

"I think it's fantastic for the consumer and for the businesses," she said. "It generates business."

Some of the items that qualify for the sales-tax exemption that began Friday and runs through midnight Sunday:

--Bath towels

--Bed linens

--Bookbags

--Clothes

--Computers and printers

--Diapers

--Hats

--Purses

--School supplies

--Shoes

--Umbrellas

Some of the items that do not qualify for the exemption:

--Cameras

--Cell phones

--Cookware

--Cosmetics

--Eyewear

--Furniture

--Jewelry

--Toys

--Wallets

--Watches

ON THE WEB: For a list of all tax-free items, go to www.sctax.org.

Reach Warren Wise at 937-5524 or wwise@postandcourier.com.