Tax holiday kicks off with flurry of shoppers

TUPELO – Elaine Spain was happy that, for once, she paid $99.99 for a pair of Nikes.
“It’s nice paying exactly what it says,” said Spain, who was helping her 15-year-old son, Will Rowan, with his back-to-school shopping Friday at the Finish Line at The Mall at Barnes Crossing.
They were among thousands of shoppers hitting stores across the state, taking advantage of a two-day respite from the 7 percent state sales tax.
“It’s what brought us out,” said Spain, of New Site. “With the money we save, we can buy notebooks and other school supplies. It makes a big difference.”
Traffic at The Mall at Barnes Crossing was on par with Christmas shopping volume, said Manager Jeff Snyder.
“We didn’t anticipate this big of a response,” he said. “We thought it was going to be big, but not this big. Saturday was supposed to be the big day, but I don’t know what’s it’s going to be like.”
In downtown Tupelo, business has been steady this week not only because of BTS shopping, but also because of a week-long tax-free promotion.
On Monday, six downtown Tupelo retailers kicked off a “Sales Tax on Us Week” sale to piggyback on the state’s tax-free holiday. While the state holiday limited purchases to select items on Friday and today, the participating downtown merchants paid the sales tax on everything all week.
Shelly Daniel, co-owner of Swirlz, a stationery store and gift shop, thinks a lot of her business came from their involvement with the tax-free week.
“Things are going really well,” Daniel said. “We’re pleased with it.”
The store doesn’t sell items specifically geared toward back-to-school shoppers, but Daniel said Swirlz has sold a lot of jewelry and thank-you cards.
Barbara Fleishhacker, owner of The Main Attraction, said sales have been “pretty good” all week but they were “really good” Friday.
So far, Wednesday and Friday were her busiest days, and she’s hoping for robust traffic today.
The traffic wasn’t anywhere near what she would see during the Christmas holidays, but she said it was busier than this time last year. On Friday afternoon, she was steadily greeting new customers by telling them the clothes were 20 percent off and there’s no sales tax at all in her store.
Most customers were buying clothing, Fleishhacker said, and customers on Friday were mainly back-to-school shoppers.
Those shoppers were driving sales at Reed’s Department Store, too. Reed’s didn’t participate in the Sales Tax on Us Week, but it did see an uptick in customers on Friday.
Lucia Randle, Reed’s marketing director, said Friday’s traffic was “very steady all day,” with the children’s department being “really busy.”
“It’s not as busy as Christmas, but it’s very steady,” Randle said. “I’m very pleased. It’s definitely busier than a typical Friday … I think this year people are being thoughtful with their money and trying to get the best value.”
Backpacks were the big sellers Friday, Randle said. They aren’t covered by the state tax holiday, so the store discounted them 7.25 percent.
Backpacks also did well at Reed’s location at The Mall at Barnes Crossing. In addition, store manager Martha Gunner said parents were out with their children Friday getting North Face jackets, shoes, ladies’ apparel, Vera Bradley merchandise and KAVU bags.

No holding back
Many items qualified for the tax-free holiday, but Gunner said she didn’t see customers holding off on items costing more than $100 or that didn’t fit in the covered categories.
“If it’s something they want,” she said, “they’re just going to buy it.”
Customers also were putting jackets on layaway for this winter, she said.
As far as traffic, Gunner said she saw more people Friday by 3 p.m. than she sees for Labor Day and Memorial Day, but it wasn’t as busy as Black Friday.
At Finish Line, Store Manager Jacob Marlin said Friday and today would be the store’s two busiest days of the year. Never mind Black Friday or Christmas Eve, he said.
“We’re expecting things to blow up – we’re expecting to double what we normally do for back to school,” he said.
The mall is giving away T-shirts for customers who spend at least $200, and Snyder said that the 500 shirts that were ordered will run out early today.
“We’re seeing receipts from people spending $400, $500 even $700, so that means people are shopping,” he said. “It’s a really good sign.”

Contact Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1598 or carlie.kollath@djournal.com. Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or dennis.seid@djournal.com.

Dennis Seid & Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal