BRADENTON — Local retailers say they will gladly take the shortened sales tax holiday over no tax break at all.
The tax break for back-to-school purchases, which has lasted a week in years past, will run for three days starting Aug. 13. But after the Florida Legislature cut the tax-free holiday in 2009 and 2008, retailers are thankful for anything that may entice consumer spending and are strategically scheduling additional promotions around the weekend in an effort to make the most of the shortened tax break.
“We’re thrilled to have the three-day tax free weekend,” said Mary Beth Fox, vice president of marketing and advertising at the Bradenton-based Bealls. “We know that many consumers may not have all the disposable income they would like within one pay period. For that reason, we’re planning special savings events throughout the month.”
Bealls is distributing a coupon book this month that includes additional savings for consumers during the tax holiday weekend that ends Aug. 15.
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At Plato’s Closet, the store is giving consumers a $10 coupon to use in September if they spend $100 during all of August at the Cortez Road store that buys and sells used brand name clothes.
“Our business has always benefitted from the sales tax holiday,” said Deon Stein, manager of Plato’s Closet. “Things are hard right now with the economy, anything the state can do is going to help us.”
The sales tax holiday in Florida typically increases sales by 8 percent for the month in which it is held, according to a report by the Washington Economics Group, Inc. on the economic impact of the tax break holiday.
The group, which prepared the report for the Florida Retail Federation, estimated Florida lost out on $1.7 billion in economic activity as a result of eliminating the tax break in 2009. The Legislature also eliminated the tax break in 2008 because of a tight budget and needing the extra revenue.
“I think that the last two years were sorely missed not just by retailers but by Florida’s families as well,” said Rick McAllister, president and chief executive officer of the Florida Retail Federation. “The economy’s been tough in those two years. Even though it is a shortened tax break, at least we’re back in the game.”
The DeSoto Square mall has scheduled the grand opening for its newest tenant, Saturn 5 Entertainment Center, to coincide with the sales tax holiday. Mall officials hope the indoor miniature golf and recreation center will draw more consumers to scout back-to-school sales.
“Many of DeSoto Square’s retailers will be showcasing special sales offers and promotions to complement the sales tax holiday,” said Jeni Wilson, mall manager. “Because the tax-free holiday hasn’t been held since 2007, we expect that shoppers will be out in force to take advantage of the savings this year.”
Sarah Ozgun, marketing manager for Prime Outlets-Ellenton, too, expects the tax break to result in strong sales for August, and retailers have prepared adequately.
“Many stores are increasing their amount of inventory particularly on back-to-school merchandise,” Ozgun said.