Tax-free weekend sweet for South Carolina stores big and small

Shoppers are busy in the computer department at Myrtle Beach's Best Buy during the annual tax-free weekend on Saturday.
Shoppers are busy in the computer department at Myrtle Beach's Best Buy during the annual tax-free weekend on Saturday. jblackmon@thesunnews.com

Walking out of Best Buy, Danielle Caines totaled up her savings.

The Loris mother had just purchased two HP computers, two printers and an external hard drive. Her next stop would be Coastal Grand Mall to buy uniforms for her children, both students at North Myrtle Beach Christian School.

“We saved a lot,” she said Saturday afternoon. “They’ll put the computers on sale and then you get the taxes off as well. It works out really good.”

For Caines, the combination of store sales and some tax-free shopping translated into about $200 in savings. For South Carolina shoppers, the sales tax holiday will mean more than $2 million in savings. And for the state’s businesses — both large and small — the weekend is a financial winner, too.

“It’s like the precursor to Black Friday,” said Stan Kilp, general manager of Best Buy in Myrtle Beach. “It’s almost the same thing. It’s the Black Friday for computers.”

For the past 16 years, the state has suspended its 6 percent sales tax on select items for one weekend each summer. The list of tax-free products includes clothing, school supplies and, of course, computers. This year’s holiday began at 12:01 a.m. Friday and concludes Sunday at midnight.

“It is a win-win situation,” said Ashley Thomas, spokeswoman for the state Department of Revenue. “It does help lessen the tax burden for those parents and consumers who are out there shopping for back to school. But at the same time, it benefits businesses and retailers by increasing the traffic in their stores and generating additional sales … Retailers tell us that this is the second biggest shopping weekend after Black Friday for them.”

At Best Buy Saturday, Kilp said business had already exceeded projections.

“Yesterday, from start to finish, there was never a dull period,” he said. “It was busy all the way up past closing. Just a fantastic day.”

This is the second year North Carolina has not offered a similar tax-free holiday. Some Grand Strand store managers said they have seen Tar Heel shoppers buying everything from bookbags to laptops.

“They have come over the border to shop,” Kilp said.

Although crowds could be expected at major retailers such as Best Buy, Target and Wal-Mart, the promotion benefits smaller businesses, too.

“It absolutely does,” said Jim Price, manager of Everything Computers, which sells refurbished laptops and other electronics at stores in Conway, Socastee, Surfside and North Myrtle Beach.

Price said back-to-school sales have been strong. And while he couldn’t say this particular weekend has generated more customers than others recently, he appreciates the publicity the holiday provides and knows area families enjoy saving a few dollars.

“It’s a big help for parents,” he said.

At Oh Sew Cute, a children’s clothing and screen printing store in Conway, owner Summer Hucks enjoyed her best tax-free weekend since she opened the business four years ago.

“Yesterday we were so crazy,” she said. “Today has been really, really busy. … “We really do, honestly, probably just as good as some of the big box stores.”

Even with all the extra traffic, don’t think the store owners are missing out on the deals this weekend.

“I’m going shopping, too,” Hucks said. “As soon as we close, I’m gone.”

Charles D. Perry: 843-626-0218, @TSN_CharlesPerr