Each July, Linda Rogers and her daughters, Jessica, Danielle and Samantha, make a pilgrimage to Leigh Mall and other area retailers in search of the perfect back-to-school bargain.
Although the Rogers typically make the shopping trip around the middle of the month, this year was a little different.
This July, the Mississippi State Legislature determined the date of the Rogers” annual bargain-hunting expedition.
“We usually do our back-to-school shopping in mid-July, but this year we waited until this weekend because of the sales tax holiday,” Linda Rogers said as she combed through a pile of girls” jeans resting on a display table at J.C. Penney in Leigh Mall in Columbus.
“I am excited about the tax holiday, especially since it”s the first one,” Linda Rogers added, noting Danielle and Samantha attend Columbus High School and Jessica attends East Mississippi Community College. “Sure, it”s only 7 cents on the dollar, but every little bit helps when you”re shopping for three girls.”
The Rogers were among hundreds of shoppers fanned out across Leigh Mall, the Belk store on Highway 45 North and several other Columbus retailers Friday during the first day of the state”s inaugural sales tax holiday.
During the holiday, which lasted all day Friday and Saturday, shoppers were not required to pay the usual 7 percent state sales tax on clothing, backpacks and many other back-to-school and work-related items.
“The tax holiday did bring us out today. We are just here shopping for school clothes,” Columbus resident Terri McLain said as she and her daughter, Caitlin, a student at Heritage Academy, browsed the girl”s section of J.C. Penney Friday afternoon.
“I was kind of surprised that they actually did it this year. It sure is nice,” Terri McLain added. “The savings definitely add up when you buy a lot of things.”
Shoppers from across the state Friday could be found browsing the racks of the Friendly City”s largest retail establishments. Mark Buckner and his sons Alex and Jamal said they discovered several bargains at Belk Friday while they were visiting family members in Lowndes County.
“They have 50 percent off some of these Polo shirts on top of the sales tax holiday,” Mark Buckner said as he held an armful of shirts. “We all like to wear them in the summer and fall.
“We normally go to the sales tax holiday when they have it in Memphis (Tenn.),” Mark Buckner added. “So it”s good that we are able to have the same thing here in Mississippi.”
Soon after area businesses opened their doors Friday morning, many store managers began reporting “swamped” sales floors and higher-than-normal sales figures.
Mike Law, general manager of the J.C. Penney in Leigh Mall, said he viewed Friday”s crowds as a precursor to the customer onslaught he expected Saturday.
“It”s been about what we thought it would be so far today,” Law said Friday. “But looking at the past figures for the Alabama stores, they usually double up on the Saturday of the tax holiday.
“People in here today are definitely buying more merchandise than usual,” Law added. “It”s not like some other shopping days where most people just come in and look around.”
On Saturday, he wasn”t disappointed.
“It”s wonderful,” he explained. “There are people everywhere. It”s been what I expected and more. It”s been very good.”
Across the parking lot from J.C. Penney, employees at the Columbus Old Navy store Friday reported business had been “going fine” during the state”s first sales tax holiday.
“We have been pretty steady all day, but we think it will pick up a lot more tomorrow,” said Takiesha Prude, the store”s key holder. “We will probably do well today and tomorrow in reaching our sales goals for the weekend.”
A packed parking lot and heavier-than-usual Friday crowds marked the start of the tax-free weekend for Belk, said store manager Perky Richard.
“We have been absolutely swamped since we opened today,” Richard said. “And we are expecting it to be a lot busier tomorrow.
“Most people get paid today, so they”ll really start showing up tonight and tomorrow,” Richard laughed.
“It”s been terrific,” Assistant Manager Cindy Parker said Saturday afternoon. ” The customers are very excited about it. We”ve got a huge increase in business due to the tax free weekend.”
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