August 1, 2014

SC tax free weekend is magnet to North Carolina shoppers

North Carolinians made their presence felt early in South Carolina’s tax free weekend as they were among the first through the door at the Target on S.C. 544 and BestBuy near Coastal Grand mall.

North Carolinians made their presence felt early in South Carolina’s tax free weekend as they were among the first through the door at the Target on S.C. 544 and BestBuy near Coastal Grand mall.

Jon Leidel, BestBuy manager, said he asked for a show of hands when he opened the doors Friday morning and counted 10 to 15 of the first 50 customers as from the Tar Heel State – which is not having a tax-free holiday this year, a move that has sent some shoppers across the border to South Carolina.

“It’s nice not to pay for tax,” said Caroline Rinehardt of Charlotte, who was at Target during her family’s vacation at the beach.

South Carolina’s annual tax-free holiday – when shoppers don’t have to pay sales tax on purchases of clothes, bedding and many other items – kicked off Friday and runs through 11:59 p.m. Sunday.

Rinehardt said she was shopping for clothes and school supplies, like many on the tax free hunt, and it was nice to be able to look at the tag prices and know just what she’d be spending. Sales tax add-on sends her rumbling through change to pay it, and she’s glad to be able to keep the money for treats for her little sister.

“My sister loves bubble gum,” she said.

Lauren Taylor, human resources director for the Target store, said she asked early customers where they were from and found several from Wilmington, N.C., and Shallotte, N.C.

Stores that sell clothes, computers, school supplies, bedding and towels were expecting even more tax-free shoppers this year from north of the border because North Carolina canceled its tax-free weekend.

That’s not the only thing the legislature canceled, either, said first-grade teacher Amanda Greene of Tabor City, N.C., which sits on the S.C. state line near Loris. Lawmakers also took away funding that teachers had gotten for supplies for their classrooms.

As a result, she said while she and her husband Waites loaded up a basket at the Wal-Mart across Kings Road from the Tanger Outlet, she’ll use the money she saves from buying things such as file folders, pencils and notebooks to buy things such as sanitary wipes for her classroom.

Stores up and down the Grand Strand added staff for the weekend to handle the extra shoppers during the tax free weekend.

Taylor said Target hires its summer help so they’ll be trained and still on the job during the tax free and back-to-school buying spurts. Vivian Pindell, the Wal-Mart store manager, said she brought in 50 percent more staff to handle crowds that made Friday look like a Saturday rush.

Leidel said he’ll get extra staff this weekend from BestBuy stores in Wilmington and Jacksonville, N.C.

And they know they’ll get more business because taxes won’t be included in sale prices.

Mary Hughey, manager of J.C. Penney at Coastal Grand mall, said the store usually sees its business triple on tax free weekends. Taylor said Target forecasts nearly double the sales from a normal weekend.

Hughey said she expects North Carolinians to be prominent among her customers this weekend because the mall is a destination, she said, and offers more shopping than the mall in Wilmington.

But they’re also coming from the other direction.

“We’re going to put together the whole outfit,” said Kizzie Lawson of Andrews, shopping with her two sons at J.C. Penney. “Sneakers, we’re going to do it all.”

The total savings shoppers see from the absence of an 8 percent maximum sales taxes in Horry County won’t usually add up to a lot of money, but Friday’s group said that anything is a bonus.

But the savings can be notable for higher-priced items such as electronic tablets and computers.

While most shoppers were counting their savings just once, Janin Archambault of Quebec City, Canada, a BestBuy customer Friday, was doubling his fortune.

Not only would he spend 8 percent less because of no sales tax, but he’d also be saving another 8 percent because the U.S. dollar is worth 92 cents of a Canadian dollar. The difference in the dollar values in each country means the computers he bought Friday cost less than the same computers would in Canada.

The $300 dollars he figures to save could pay for his gas on the drive home.

Leslie West of Myrtle Beach will do even better.

She was buying a tablet, printer, clothes and dorm stuff for her son Luke, who will be a freshman at Methodist University in Fayetteville, N.C. She figures she could pocket $500 from the tax free holiday.

And what’s she going to do with it?

“Invest it in him,” she said, hooking her thumb in Luke’s direction.

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