Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tax-Free Shopping Provides a Pick-Up for Area Retailers; Even Though Some Will Wait before Getting School Supplies, the Week Was a Success

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tax-Free Shopping Provides a Pick-Up for Area Retailers; Even Though Some Will Wait before Getting School Supplies, the Week Was a Success

Article excerpt

Byline: DIANA MIDDLETON

For retailers looking to boost their earnings with back-to-school savings, promotions and flurries of coupons, last week, with its tax-free shopping hype, was a good one - at least locally.

On the whole, retailers seem to have received a warm reception from bargain-craving shoppers in the throes of back-to-school shopping, particularly department stores who have felt the sting of retailers like Target in past school shopping seasons. And while industry think tanks project that most shoppers will do the bulk of their shopping later in August and September, local stores say they saw a big improvement, crowd-wise, over last year during the tax holiday.

While it's too soon to view the hard numbers (retailers' sales numbers come out later this week), the outlook seems bright. While back-to-school sales totaled more than $23 million in 2005, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers, sales for the whole back-to-school season were projected to increase between 3 and 4 percent, although most shoppers tend to their back-to-school shopping later in the year. The NPD Group, a New York-based retail research firm, said this season also spells good news for department stores normally beat out by discount retailers, with 27 percent of polled shoppers reporting that they will do their back-to-school shopping at department stores, compared with 24 percent in 2005.

Locally, the state's tax-free shopping period, which ran from July 22 to July 30, was a boon to retailers, in part because of strong trends, but also because of heavily publicized promotions that doubled up on the tax break and special sales and coupons.

Tom Wynn, manager of JCPenney at Regency Square mall, said the back-to-school weekend garnered big crowds - and nearly double the sales of a normal week.

"It beat my expectations," he said. "Sales were much better than last year, at least for Penney's."

For its part, Penney's - like a number of other retailers - tacked on other promotions to the tax-free days, including coupons for $10 and $15 off, and special sales to drive store traffic. …

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