Shoppers flock to Manatee County to take advantage of tax-free days

newsintern@bradenton.comAugust 3, 2013 

MANATEE -- The opening day of Florida's tax-free holiday attracted eager shoppers to Ellenton Premium Outlets from St. Petersburg, Parrish and Bradenton -- as expected.

But shoppers from as far away as Germany and Georgia also were at the outlet mall to take advantage of the tax-free weekend.

"We always come down to the states and for the last two years it's been Florida during the summertime," Samy Youssef of Germany said while shopping at the Ellenton mall.

From the end of July to mid-September most places in Europe experience a "dead season," Youssef said.

It's a good time to do some shopping in Florida. Youssef said early Friday that he planned on shopping the entire day -- mainly focusing on back-to-school items.

"We bought quite a lot," Youssef said. "We are mainly looking for kids clothes for when they go back to school."

Florida TaxWatch estimates that this weekend's savings for consumers will be $34.7 million.

Courtney Holton, a Georgia native and mother of two, was making her first foray into tax-free shopping, as she picked out clothes for her children.

"I'm mainly buying school clothes for my daughter, who's 5 and entering pre-K, and my son, who's a year and half," Holton said.

Others were veterans.

Judy Stauv of Parrish has been shopping tax-free for as long as she can remember.

"We always know about the weekend, and I live down the road in Parrish, so we always come to Ellenton to do our shopping," Stauv said.

Stauv said she spent $500 on shoes and clothes from Nike for her grandson, Garrett Snell, 13.

"It's all about the kids," Stauv said.

The director of marketing for Ellenton Premium Outlets, Sarah Ozgun, said the combination of back-to-school shoppers and tax-free days help bring in the crowds.

"We are seeing a lot of shoppers with a lot of bags, and people love finding exciting deals, especially during this back-to-school season," Ozgun said.

While outlet stores will be open regular hours, the tax-free holiday will end at midnight Sunday.

For some shoppers, not having to pay taxes was good enough to spend a couple hundred bucks on clothes and shoes this weekend.

"That's the only reason why I'm here," said Jodie Cutrer, who traveled from St. Petersburg to shop for the entire day. "I bought a pair of shoes for myself but I'm mostly shopping for my 17-year-old."

Cutrer said she's only giving herself one day for the shopping -- as did other shoppers.

"We're pretty much getting what we need and then getting out," Cutrer said. "Once we're out of money, we're out."

A shopper at Staples on Manatee Avenue West said one day of shopping is enough for her.

"For me, we'll be done today," Nancy Jenkins, a teacher at Prine Elementary said. "I'm afraid it'll be busier tomorrow, so I'm just going to get everything done today."

Many teachers, who buy supplies for their classrooms, prefer shopping during the tax holiday weekend.

"That's exactly why I'm here -- because it's tax-free," Jenkins said.

Jenkins filled her cart with supplies for her classroom, but said she planned to cross the street and head to Beall's to buy for her daughter and son as well.

"I'm getting pencils, pens and stuff like that, but I'll be shopping for back-to-school clothes for myself and my kids, too," Jenkins said.

Binders, pencils, pens and calculators filled most shopping carts at Staples.

"We're only shopping for back to school," Penny Kirk of Georgia said. Kirk said her family came to Bradenton to celebrate her mother-in-law's birthday, and she decided to take advantage of an earlier tax holiday than in Georgia, which doesn't offer tax-free days until two weeks into the school year.

Kirk was pleased with her Staples items for her 15-year-old daughter.

"We got binders, pencils and now just getting a calculator," Kirk said. "We'll probably be at $100."

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