MYRTLE BEACH — Deal-hungry shoppers know the drill.
Computers, clothing, back-to-school items and other merchandise will ring up tax free this weekend an automatic discount without having to clip a coupon or scan a special member card that budget-conscious consumers continue to crave as the economic woes still weigh on their minds and their wallets.
The annual sales-tax holiday in both Carolinas starts at 12:01 a.m. Friday and runs through midnight Sunday. This is the 13th year for the tax-free holiday in South Carolina, which was originally billed as a way to save on back-to-school purchases but has also become popular with vacationers and others looking to save a few bucks.
Its become so popular that it is the third-busiest shopping period all year in South Carolina, behind the weekends after Thanksgiving and before Christmas, according to the S.C. Department of Revenue.
So expect to see bigger-than-usual crowds this weekend at area shopping centers, as well as extended hours for some stores.
Its usually a huge weekend, said Nick Barrett, general manager of Tanger Outlets along the Grand Strand. People circle it on their calendar and make plans.
Many shoppers love the tax-free weekend because they dont have to pay the states 6 percent sales tax or other local sales taxes, and retailers love it because of the surge in sales. Consumers can really cash in when they find items already on sale, especially summer merchandise as the season winds down.
Any shopper wants a great deal, and tax free is just an extra incentive, said Hatton Gravely, spokeswoman for The Market Common, adding that shes expecting the complexs new computer store to be extra busy as consumers try to cash in even more by buying big-ticket items such as computers.
Computers, shoes, bed linens, fishing boots, pajamas and jogging suits are among the items that will be tax-free this weekend. But not everything is tax-free, with items such as jewelry, cosmetics, eyewear and furniture still ringing up with taxes added. Items placed on layaway also wont be tax-free this weekend.
And heres a tip for those gadget-buyers: Computer tablets will be tax-free, but expect to pay taxes on portable devices that are mainly used for telephone calls, listening to or downloading music, watching videos or reading books.
Shoppers best bet is to check the long lists of tax-free items and those you will still pay tax on at www.sctax.org before hitting the stores. The lists, which werent changed this year, are pretty specific; for example, elastic ponytail holders, furs and girdles will be tax free, but a change purse, drapes and gift-wrapping paper wont be tax free.
Regardless of what theyll be shopping for, consumers want to walk out feeling like they got a deal, especially with the economy still not strong, retailers said.
People are still strategic in how they spend their money and are looking for value, Barrett said.
Marianne Bickle, director of The Center For Retailing at the University of South Carolina, said the tax-free holiday is more important now to consumers in this economy than it was when it began. But, Bickle said, its always important to maximize opportunity to be financially wise in your actions.
Thats what this tax-free holiday does, she said. If you know youre going to eventually buy your children book bags and things like that, save the money by buying on the tax-free holiday.
Shoppers statewide are expected to save about $3 million during the tax-free weekend, according to the S.C. Department of Revenue.
As the economy continues its ups and downs...tax-free becomes another way for those customers to save some money, said Joe Perl, general manager of Myrtle Beach Mall. Everyone is looking to take advantage of it.
The Greenville News contributed to this report.
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