MYRTLE BEACH — Shoppers like vacationer Lay Hines wasted no time cashing in on the start of South Carolina’s tax-free holiday Friday.
The self-described “coupon queen” had waited all week for the three-day, tax-free period to kick in, even picking out items Thursday evening then returning to buy them Friday morning when they were tax-free.
“Yesterday, we prepped,” Hines said Friday morning while shopping at Coastal Grand mall in Myrtle Beach. “We came last night so all we had to do was pay today.”
By noon Friday, she had already shopped at two area malls - with her 14-year-old daughter clutching a handful of bags filled with clothes and bookbags -- with plans to hit both Tanger Outlet centers, Marshalls and more stores the rest of the day.
“That’s why I waited until Friday to go shopping,” said Hines, who started her vacation Monday. “I kept saying, ‘No shopping ‘til Friday. Nine percent makes a difference.’”
Hines and other deal-hungry shoppers kept malls and stores packed Friday, and officials expect the crowds to keep coming until the tax-free period ends at midnight Sunday. In addition to not paying the state’s 6 percent sales tax and any local sales tax - which combined total 9 percent in the city of Myrtle Beach - shoppers were cashing in even more as many retailers are offering additional percentages off during the tax-free period.
Many items are ringing up without the sales tax, including clothes, computers and shoes. But not everything is tax-free. Shoppers will still pay tax on jewelry, cosmetics, furniture and other items. Check the lists of items at www.sctax.org. It’s also tax-free weekend in North Carolina.
Retailers along the Grand Strand were ready for the rush, with many stores calling in extra hands, ordering more merchandise and setting up ropes to organize lines at the registers -- which shoppers usually only see during the busy Christmas shopping period.
The tax-free holiday, now in its 13th year in South Carolina, rivals Christmas-time sales -- ranking as the third-busiest shopping period of the year behind the weekends after Thanksgiving and before Christmas, according to the S.C. Department of Revenue, which estimates shoppers save about $3 million shopping the tax-free weekend.
More shoppers are expected to take advantage of the tax-free holiday this weekend than last year along the Grand Strand as the still wobbly economy has consumers searching for any discount they can get, retailers said.
Some shoppers were so eager they got a jumpstart on the weekend by pre-ordering computers to pick up Friday or, in Hines’ case picking out the items she wanted Thursday night and asking the stores to hold them until Friday morning. Some stores obliged, others didn’t.
Several savvy shoppers used this weekend for big-ticket computer purchases, where the savings add up. A steady stream of customers -- college students, businessmen and folks buying new Mac models -- trickled into CityMac Apple Specialist Store at The Market Common on Friday morning, shortly before the usual 10 a.m. opening, many of them picking up computers they had pre-ordered up to a week and a half ago. The store had taken about 50 pre-orders and brought in three times more merchandise expecting a big weekend, manager Jim Strater said.
Alyson Johnson, a student at Coastal Carolina University, timed the purchase of her iPad with the tax-free period.
“That’s the only reason we are here,” her mother Becky Robertson of Myrtle Beach said.
Michael Munn had been eyeing a 27-inch iMac for his wife and decided to get one this weekend so he could save about $200 by not paying the tax.
“We might have waited a little bit longer” if it weren’t tax-free weekend, he said.
The crowds usually keep Bridgett Powers of Columbia from shopping during tax-free weekend, but she tried it this year during her vacation along the Grand Strand, hitting Coastal Grand mall early and filling a buggy with bags of clothes and other school items for her two kids by noon.
“I usually don’t shop the tax-free holiday, but with him starting kindergarten and her starting second grade, I said, ‘Let’s take advantage of it while we are here,’” Powers said. “Every little bit helps.”
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